A Christmas Carol read by Tim Curry ★★★★✬

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 Christmas Carol read by Tim Curry
Author: Charles Dickens
Narrator: Tim Curry
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Length: 3hrs, 31minutes
(Pages: 98)
(Words: 28K)



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The book is divided into five chapters, which Dickens titled “staves”.

Stave one

A Christmas Carol opens on a bleak, cold Christmas Eve in London, seven years after the death of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner, Jacob Marley. Scrooge, an ageing miser, dislikes Christmas and refuses a dinner invitation from his nephew Fred—the son of Fan, Scrooge’s dead sister. He turns away two men who seek a donation from him to provide food and heating for the poor and only grudgingly allows his overworked, underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit, Christmas Day off with pay to conform to the social custom.

That night Scrooge is visited at home by Marley’s ghost, who wanders the Earth entwined by heavy chains and money boxes forged during a lifetime of greed and selfishness. Marley tells Scrooge that he has a single chance to avoid the same fate: he will be visited by three spirits and must listen or be cursed to carry much heavier chains of his own.

Stave two

The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge to Christmas scenes of Scrooge’s boyhood, reminding him of a time when he was more innocent. The scenes reveal Scrooge’s lonely childhood at boarding school, his relationship with his beloved sister Fan, and a Christmas party hosted by his first employer, Mr Fezziwig, who treated him like a son. Scrooge’s neglected fiancée Belle is shown ending their relationship, as she realises that he will never love her as much as he loves money. Finally, they visit a now-married Belle with her large, happy family on the Christmas Eve that Marley died. Scrooge, upset by hearing Belle’s description of the man that he has become, demands that the ghost remove him from the house.

Stave three

The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, takes Scrooge to a joyous market with people buying the makings of Christmas dinner and to celebrations of Christmas in a miner’s cottage and in a lighthouse. Scrooge and the ghost also visit Fred’s Christmas party. A major part of this stave is taken up with Bob Cratchit’s family feast and introduces his youngest son, Tiny Tim, a happy boy who is seriously ill. The spirit informs Scrooge that Tiny Tim will die unless the course of events changes. Before disappearing, the spirit shows Scrooge two hideous, emaciated children named Ignorance and Want. He tells Scrooge to beware the former above all and mocks Scrooge’s concern for their welfare.

Stave four

The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, shows Scrooge a Christmas Day in the future. The silent ghost reveals scenes involving the death of a disliked man whose funeral is attended by local businessmen only on condition that lunch is provided. His charwoman, laundress and the local undertaker steal his possessions to sell to a fence. When he asks the spirit to show a single person who feels emotion over his death, he is only given the pleasure of a poor couple who rejoice that his death gives them more time to put their finances in order. When Scrooge asks to see tenderness connected with any death, the ghost shows him Bob Cratchit and his family mourning the death of Tiny Tim. The ghost then allows Scrooge to see a neglected grave, with a tombstone bearing Scrooge’s name. Sobbing, Scrooge pledges to change his ways.

Stave five

Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning a changed man. He makes a large donation to the charity he rejected the previous day, anonymously sends a large turkey to the Cratchit home for Christmas dinner and spends the afternoon with Fred’s family. The following day he gives Cratchit an increase in pay, and begins to become a father figure to Tiny Tim. From then on Scrooge treats everyone with kindness, generosity and compassion, embodying the spirit of Christmas.

My Thoughts:

Most people know the story of A Christmas Carol already. This review, therefore, is going to be more about the audio side of things, as I listened to this read by Tim Curry. When I did my Currently Reading post about this last month I was very excited to hear this in Curry’s voice.

So how did it turn out? Overall, pretty good.

Listening to this, instead of reading it, allowed me to focus on different aspects that what I’ve concentrated on before and brought to the fore little things. Like the fact that Bob and Tiny Tim attended church services, or that Scrooge began attending church as part of his changed nature. Descriptions of the surroundings or of secondary characters that I’d read over like a steamroller, were allowed a new lease on life due to the magic of Curry’s voice.

I liked Curry’s reading of this. Except for one thing. Scrooge’s voice. It’s a big thing and that’s why I kept this at 4.5stars instead of bumping it up to 5. Curry turns Scrooge into this whining voice that just barely avoided being annoying. While he still conveys the fear, the excitement, the remorse, that is in each of Scrooge’s talks to the various spirits, it is all done in that tone. It is a big enough thing that I suspect I won’t be listening to this version again but will try the one read by Patrick Stewart, or I’ll just read it myself.

I did find out, in the Currently Reading post’s comments section, that Curry had suffered a major stroke and was wheelchair bound. Reading his wiki page, that happened in 2012 and this was produced in 2016. I’d never have guessed it from his voice here though.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

ps,
I am taking part in Anna the Book Critter’s Linkup Party with this review. Feel free to head over to her site and check it out.

When Worlds Collide (Bronson Beta #1) ★★★★★

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: When Worlds Collide
Series: Bronson Beta #1
Authors: Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 225
Words: 83.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Sven Bronson, a Swedish astronomer working at an observatory in South Africa, discovers a pair of rogue planets, Bronson Alpha and Bronson Beta, which will soon enter the Solar System. In eight months, they will pass close enough to cause catastrophic damage to the Earth. Sixteen months later, after swinging around the Sun, Bronson Alpha (a gas giant) will return to pulverize the Earth and leave. It is hoped that Bronson Beta (discovered to be Earth-like and potentially habitable) will remain and assume a stable orbit.

Scientists led by Cole Hendron work desperately to build an atomic rocket to transport enough people, animals and equipment to Bronson Beta in an attempt to save the human race. Various countries do the same. The United States evacuates coastal regions in preparation for the first encounter. As the planets approach, observers see through their telescopes cities on Bronson Beta. Tidal waves sweep inland at a height of 750 feet (230 m), volcanic eruptions and earthquakes add to the deadly toll, and the weather runs wild for more than two days. As a token of things to come, Bronson Alpha grazes and destroys the Moon.

Three men take a floatplane to check out conditions across the United States and meet with the President in Hutchinson, Kansas, the temporary capital of the United States. It is discovered that the entire Southeast region flooded, the Great Lakes rose and emptied into the Saint Lawrence region, and Connecticut has become an island archipelago. All three are wounded fighting off a mob at their last stop, but manage to return with a precious sample of an extremely heat-resistant metal one of them had noticed. This solves the last remaining engineering obstacle, as no material had been found before to make rocket tubes capable of withstanding the heat of the atomic exhaust for very long.

Five months before the end, desperate mobs attack the camp, killing over half of Hendron’s people before they are defeated. With the rocket tube breakthrough, the survivors are able to build a second, larger ship that can carry everyone left alive (instead of only 100 of the roughly thousand people Hendron had recruited). The two American ships take off, but lose contact with each other. Other ships are seen launching from Europe; the French ship’s tubes melt, causing it to explode in the upper atmosphere. The original American ship makes a successful landing, but it is unknown if anyone else made it. The survivors find that Bronson Beta is habitable. They also find a road.

My Thoughts:

This is the 3rd “Official” time that I’ve read this book but I know I read it at least once in Bibleschool and two or three times in highschool, so we’re talking at least six times. And I realized that I enjoyed it just as much this time as I have in the past, so its rating got bumped up to 5stars.

This is completely a comfort read. It has the 1930’s American mindset, so not only is Scyenze going to save humanity, but humanity is going to save itself. And they do a fine strapping job of it, with brawn, panache and manly friendship overcoming even jealous love interests. You don’t get stuff like this anymore. I know because of the review for a book that is coming up for Wednesday :-/

Everyone involved is a paragon of virtue. Even when they struggle with wanting to do the wrong thing, they realize it is wrong and fight and overcome it. Scientists are pure of motive and have no underlying idealogy outside of Truth Seeking, just like how we want them to be even today. The men are brawnly and smart, the women kind and gentle.

The disaster is fantastic, I have to admit. When Bronson Alpha passes Earth for the first time and destroys the moon and causes complete havoc on earth, the authors do a fantastic job of describing the cataclysmic occurrences in such an understated manner that it’s not horrifying until after you’ve read it and think about what just occurred. It’s described in a macro enough scale that as long as you have a rough idea of world geography (in terms of land masses and bodies of water) then you too can join in on the horrifying fun of it all.

Of course, the absolute nonsense about Bronson Beta having a breathable atmosphere and even having cities that survived is just something you have to put up. Hence the “scyenze” tag. But it’s no more fantastic than John Carter waking up on Mars and marrying a Pod Woman Princess.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) ★★★★★

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: Mistborn: The Final Empire
Series: Mistborn #1
Authors: Brandon Sanderson
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Pages: 574
Words: 214K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Three years prior to the start of the novel, a half-skaa thief named Kelsier discovered that he was Mistborn and escapes the Pits of Hathsin, a brutal prison camp of the Lord Ruler. He returned to Luthadel, the capital city of the Final Empire, where he rounded up his old thieving crew for a new job: to overthrow the Final Empire by stealing its treasury and collapsing its economy.

At the beginning of the novel, Vin, a wary and abused street urchin, is recruited by Kelsier’s crew after Kelsier is notified by his brother, Marsh, that she is a Mistborn. Vin is trained by Kelsier’s crew to develop her Allomantic powers, which include burning pewter to strengthen the body, burning tin to enhance the senses, and burning steel and iron to gain a limited form of telekinesis over metal. She is also given the duty of spying on the nobility by attending opulent balls in Luthadel (the capital and center of the final empire), where she poses as Valette Renoux, niece to Lord Renoux, a nobleman working with Kelsier’s crew. During these balls, she meets and falls in love with Elend Venture, heir to House Venture, the most powerful of the Luthadel noble houses. Elend flouts the rules of nobility culture and secretly plans to build a better society with his noble friends when they ascend to their respective house titles.

Kelsier hopes to conquer the city by destabilizing it with a house war between the nobility and then invading with a skaa army. Once in control, he hopes to overthrow the Final Empire by stealing the Lord Ruler’s hoard of atium, a precious metal which is the cornerstone of the Final Empire’s economy. The crew succeeds in starting a house war by assassinating several powerful nobles and recruiting about seven thousand soldiers to join their cause. However, about three quarters of the soldiers are slaughtered when they foolishly attack an unimportant Final Empire garrison with the hopes of divine protection from Kelsier, who has spread rumors of his “supernatural” powers. The remaining soldiers are smuggled into Luthadel by Kelsier, who intends to continue the plan. Unfortunately, Marsh is discovered and seemingly killed, and Lord Renoux and his estate are seized and he is brought to be executed by the Canton of Inquisition, the police arm of the Final Empire. This Canton is made up of Steel Inquisitors, seemingly indestructible Allomancers with steel spikes driven through their eyes. Though Kelsier’s crew manage to free most of Renoux’s group and kill an Inquisitor, Kelsier is killed by the Lord Ruler himself in a dramatic confrontation in Luthadel’s city square. Though these events appear to leave Kelsier’s plan in shambles, it is revealed that his real plan was to become a martyred symbol of hope for Luthadel’s superstitious skaa population. The skaa population reacts to his death by rising up and overthrowing the city with the help of Kelsier’s army.

Before his death, Kelsier had attempted to unlock the potential of the “Eleventh Metal” that he had acquired, which was rumored to be the Lord Ruler’s weakness. He was unable to do so before his death, and left it to Vin to finish the job. With the Eleventh Metal, Vin goes to the imperial palace to kill the Lord Ruler. She is captured by the Canton of Inquisition and left in a cell to be tortured, but Sazed, her faithful servant, comes to her rescue. Using a magical discipline called Feruchemy, he helps Vin escape and recover her possessions. Marsh is revealed to be alive, having actually been made into a Steel Inquisitor; he betrays his fellow Inquisitors and slays them. Vin fights the Lord Ruler, who is revealed to be both an incredibly powerful Allomancer and a Feruchemist, the combination of which grants him incredible healing powers and eternal youth. Vin is almost destroyed by the Lord Ruler, but with hints from the Eleventh Metal and the unexpected magical aid of the mists, she manages to separate the Lord Ruler from his Feruchemical bracelets that provide him with constant youth, causing him to age rapidly. Vin uses a spear to kill the Lord Ruler, who with his last words ominously warns her of a great doom. The Final Empire collapses, though Elend is able to avoid total societal collapse by uniting Luthadel under a new system of democratic government.

My Thoughts:

Recently I’ve been talking with other people about whether fantasy has gotten worse (in whatever form you claim is “worse”) or if there’s just more drek or if authors are pandering to the idiots or whatnot. I do think we can all agree it has gotten bigger, literally. If it ain’t a 10 volume epic of phat tomes, then the publishers will tell you to publish it yourself. Anyway, I have found myself despising the path that Brandon Sanderson has started going down. He’s writing multiple Young Adult books, comics and starting new series while ignoring older series. He’s also taken to putting his name on a cover and “co-authoring” books, which as we all know, usually means the other person did all the work and the big name is to sell the book. You might detect a hint of bitterness. If so, you are correct. When I was in my 20’s, and him too, he wrote what I wanted to read. As I’ve gotten older, his output hasn’t changed but is still geared towards a younger audience. What I wasn’t sure about was whether my memories of raving about his early works were because they were actually good, or because they hit the spot for me.

So this re-read of the original Mistborn trilogy is a test to see if Sanderson was a good author or if his recent “decline” was just in my head. Sadly, this was pure awesome sauce and made me excited to read fantasy. I say sadly because it means Sanderson has pandered to the Crowd and stopped writing good stuff.

This is not a perfect book, despite my rating and love for it. This is early Sanderson and while nothing sticks out like a broken branch, it is not completely polished. It “felt” like an early work. The chosen words didn’t flow perfectly, they didn’t have the many shades of meaning possible. It was never bad or ever wrong, it just wasn’t as good as I’ve seen him write in later books. But really, I don’t expect a highschool athlete to perform at the same level as an Olympic Champion. But once they’ve reached that level, I expect them to stay there. And while early Sanderson was great, once he got beyond that there’s just no going back.

Now, with that naysaying, this was just as good as I remember. I was excited to crack open my kindle each evening and read some more. I was even more excited when I got to the end of the book and to remember that I had TWO MORE BOOKS to read. You know something is good when you get excited about the books to come.

So to end, I had a fantastic time reading this, my faith in old Sanderson was restored and Fantasy HAS changed in the last 15 years and not for the better.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Hundred (Galaxy’s Edge: Savage Wars #3) ★★★★☆

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 Hundred
Series: Galaxy’s Edge: Savage Wars #3
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 251
Words: 109.5K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

THE LEGION HAS LANDED.

One hundred men met the brutal standards of General Tyrus Rechs and became legionnaires.

One hundred men embarked on a suicide mission to retake New Vega from the Savages.

One hundred men stood up… for the galaxy.

Galaxy’s Edge: The Hundred is the exciting conclusion to the Savage Wars trilogy as the Legion launches a desperate, brutal assault against the overwhelming forces of the Savage Alliance.

My Thoughts:

Out of the 250 pages, the battle was about 200 of them. So if ultra-tough space marines on steriods, ie, the Legionnaires, don’t get your motor running, this book definitely isn’t for you. In all honesty, this sub-series of the Galaxy’s Edge series isn’t for you and I’d even question if the entire GE series was for you or not. This is Mil-SF with enough Space Opera to keep it from becoming Tom Clancy Presents: Jack Ryan the 15th, In Space!

Where the previous book, Gods and Legionnaires, was divided into 2 books, one about the Savages and one about the Legionnaires, this was 90% about the 100 Legionnaires taking back the planet New Vega. The book actually starts 50-100 years after the events take place with the few surviving Legionnaires from that battle being honored. Coupled with the vague references from previous GE books, we knew that the 100 were whittled down to almost nothing before kicking the Savages off New Vega.

Even Tyrus Rechs dies. Of course, because of the magic scyenze mojo the Savages did on him when he was their prisoner, he comes back to life, but he takes a new call sign so that as far as the Legion is concerned, Rechs is dead. He set out to do what he needed to and now it is time to recover.

We’re also introduced to Aeson Ford, the guy from the first season of Galaxy’s Edge. Considering this took place 1500-2000 years before those books, I was wondering if it was the same guy. But right at the end of the book he gets drafted into some sort of Super Magic Scyenze Cryogenics program, so yep, it’s him. That was fun to see.

This was the final book in the Savage Wars sub-series and I thought that Anspach and Cole did an admirable job of relating a story that took place 2000 years before. They didn’t go overboard and try to describe every nut and bolt or color of every bird’s feather but neither were they Idea Only people like some of the old masters like Asimov or even Clarke. The blood, the grit and the determination were here in spades and I loved every second of it.

Next up for me and Galaxy’s Edge is the Order of the Centurion series. I’ll talk about exactly what they entail when I review the first book, Order of the Centurion, but it will be something a bit different as each of the 5 books in the series is mainly written by some other author while Anspach and Cole stamp their name on the book and keep control of their universe. I hope it turns out ok. Sometimes letting other authors play in your sandbox doesn’t turn out well. But for the first time in my entire life, I’m going to think positively and believe that I’m going to love Order of the Centurion as much as all the previous GE series 😀

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Gods and Legionnaires (Galaxy’s Edge: Savage Wars #2) ★★★★☆

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: Gods and Legionnaires
Series: Galaxy’s Edge: Savage Wars #2
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 390
Words: 132.5K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

The Coalition is reeling. New Vega and its other worlds have fallen beneath the boot of the newly allied Savage marines, and the death count continues to rise at a staggering rate. One thing is clear: the war to come will be a fight for the very survival of the species. For both sides in this conflict, now is the time to become what fate, and victory, demand.

The Savages—post-human monsters who believe themselves to be gods—are intent on remaking civilization in their own violent and pathological image. Yet their alliance is tenuous. Among the many tribes of the Uplifted, as they call themselves, the struggle for supremacy rages on. All know that in the end there can be only one tribe. One leader. One truth.

Meanwhile humanity’s last, desperate hope is the formation of a new kind of fighting force: The Legion. Those select few who are hardy enough—or foolish enough—to undertake the relentless, grueling, and merciless candidate training will have the chance to be transformed into mythical heroes… or die trying. They will be pushed beyond their physical and mental limits as they seek to survive an unforgiving planet, lost and derelict ghost spaceships, and worst of all, the cold, unflinching brutality of Tyrus Rechs. At the end of this crucible, only the one percent of the one percent will earn the right to be called ….. Legionnaires.

My Thoughts:

In many ways, this was 2 books. The first part, Gods, followed one Savage Marine from after his time on New Vega to a new joint operation by another clan of Savages. What the rest of the Savages don’t know is that the Savage Marine (who I’ll call Johnny) has been tasked by his masters to introduce a virus into the Savage Alliance to subtley draw all the savages under control of one clan, Johnny’s clan.

Between fights we get Johnny’s history from when he fled from Earth during the scattering thousands of years ago, to what happened on the Savage Ship. We also realize how technologically advanced in some areas the Savages are and yet how internally focused they are which only heightens their arrogance, paranoia and sense of godhood. Then you come to realize just much they’ve messed with their minds and you can’t believe a thing they think about themselves. It was intriguing and disturbing all rolled into one.

The second part was about the formation of the Legion itself. Nobody but Tyrus realizes just how brutal the training must be and that only a total bastard can forge others into being the tough mothers the galaxy needs at the moment. Opposed by the very Alliance that is placing their hopes on him, by his best friend Caspar and even by the very soldiers he is trying to train, Tyrus doesn’t let any of that slow him down or stop him. He has a job that only he can do and he’ll finish it.

While I enjoy a good military training montage, something about this one just didn’t quite grab me. Part of it is that Tyrus isn’t much of a person any more. There are a squadron of Legionnaires who we get to know which was good but it wasnt “quite” enough either.

Overall, this was a really enjoyble story and gave a lot of backstory. This Galaxy’s Edge universe continues to keep me interested and to tell a good story.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Some Buried Caesar (Nero Wolfe #6) ★★★★✬

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: Some Buried Caesar
Series: Nero Wolfe #6
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 202
Words: 75.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

While on their way to a rural exposition in upstate New York to show orchids, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are involved in a minor car accident. On their way to a nearby house to phone for help, they are threatened by a large bull but are eventually rescued by Caroline Pratt, a local golf champion, and her acquaintance Lily Rowan. The house and bull belong to Thomas Pratt, Caroline’s uncle and the owner of a large chain of successful fast food restaurants, and he has purchased the bull—a champion Guernsey called Hickory Caesar Grindon—in order to barbecue it as part of a publicity stunt.

While Wolfe and Archie enjoy Pratt’s hospitality, they meet several of Pratt’s family and neighbours—Jimmy Pratt, Pratt’s indolent nephew; Monte McMillan, the original owner of Caesar, who sold the bull to Pratt after falling into financial difficulties; Clyde Osgood and his sister Nancy, the children of Pratt’s neighbour Frederick Osgood; and a New Yorker named Howard Bronson, who is apparently a friend of Clyde. There is tension between the Pratt and Osgood families due to a bitter rivalry between Thomas Pratt and Frederick Osgood, and when tempers flare Clyde makes a bet with Pratt that the latter will not barbecue Caesar. As Pratt is already paranoid due to the hostility of local farmers opposed to his plans to cook Caesar, Wolfe offers Archie’s services as a guard for Caesar in exchange for a comfortable stay at Pratt’s house. During his watch that night, Lily Rowan shows up to keep Archie company, and together they discover Clyde’s body, gored to death in the pasture.

The local authorities assume that Clyde was simply gored by Caesar during an attempt to sabotage Pratt’s plans, but Wolfe believes that Clyde was murdered; the bull’s face was cleaner than it would have been had he fatally attacked Clyde. His suspicions are shared by Frederick Osgood, who knows his son to be an experienced cattle-man who would not have made the amateurish mistakes that would have caused his death had the bull been responsible. The elder Osgood consequently hires Wolfe to learn the identity of the murderer and agrees to house him in comfort for the duration of the investigation. Archie is also hired by Caroline Pratt to prevent what she believes to be Lily Rowan’s attempts to seduce her brother Jimmy.

In a meeting with Waddell, the local district attorney, Wolfe proposes that the murder weapon was in fact a digging pick that the murderer used to fake the attack, having first knocked Clyde out and dragged him into the paddock. Waddell, who has a petty rivalry with the elder Osgood, is skeptical but is nevertheless convinced to reopen the investigation. However, before the investigation can proceed far, sudden news comes that Caesar has died suddenly of anthrax. In order to prevent it spreading, this means that the bull will be automatically cremated. Wolfe dispatches Archie to either delay the cremation or take as many photos of the bull as possible before this, but Archie arrives too late to do either.

After interviewing Nancy Osgood, Wolfe learns that Bronson is in fact a New York loan shark who has been shadowing Clyde in order to ensure he receives $10,000 that Clyde borrowed to cover his gambling debts. When confronted by Wolfe and Archie, Bronson confirms this, but is vague and unhelpful when questioned regarding Clyde’s death, leading Wolfe to suspect that Bronson knows more than he is saying. Out of respect for Nancy Osgood, Wolfe has Archie recover the promissory note Bronson was holding over Clyde by force, but warns the loan shark to be careful.

The next day, Wolfe’s orchids win numerous prizes at the exposition, defeating a hated rival in the process. While following some of Wolfe’s instructions, Archie discovers Jimmy Pratt and Nancy Osgood in a secret rendezvous; the two are lovers, but have kept their relationship secret from their feuding parents. By chance, during their confrontation Archie also stumbles upon the body of Howard Bronson, gored with a pitchfork and hidden under straw. He manages to conceal the body and returns to Wolfe with the news. But when the body is discovered, Archie is detained by Captain Barrow, the bullying local head of the state police, and is imprisoned by the authorities as a material witness when he refuses to reveal what he knows.

The next day, Wolfe secures Archie’s release with the promise to that he knows who the murderer is and will soon expose him to the authorities. To Archie, Wolfe admits that despite knowing the murderer’s identity, the evidence that will enable him to prove it has been efficiently destroyed. Nevertheless, based on his memory and official records from the local farming authorities, Wolfe draws some sketches of the bull that he and Archie encountered and uses them to confront Monte McMillan. Wolfe has deduced that the bull that Thomas Pratt purchased and intended to barbecue was not, in fact, Caesar at all. The champion bull was killed in an anthrax outbreak that decimated almost all of McMillan’s herd, and the bull that was passed off as Caesar was in fact Hickory Buckingham Pell, a similar but inferior twin. Facing financial ruin, McMillan sold Buckingham as Caesar for an outrageous sum, but due to his experience with cattle Clyde realised the deception and was planning to expose it to win his bet. McMillan thus murdered Clyde to silence him, and later killed Bronson when the loan shark, realising that McMillan was the murderer, tried to blackmail him.

Although Wolfe admits that McMillan has covered his tracks well and is unlikely to be convicted of murder, the evidence Wolfe has manufactured is sufficient to convict McMillan of fraud, which would expose and ruin him nonetheless. Accepting defeat, McMillan reveals that he has infected himself with anthrax and agrees to write a confession out for Wolfe before dying. Months later, Archie records the case, revealing in the process that Jimmy Pratt and Nancy Osgood are engaged to be married and that he has begun a friendship with Lily Rowan, who has returned to New York.

My Thoughts:

First off, I am giving this the Best Book of the Year tag. This is the first time I felt a book was good enough to get that tag this year. I haven’t been paying that much attention to this kind of thing and when I don’t pay attention it tends to slip under the radar. With the end of the year fast approaching, that is always a wake up call for me.

Plus, I just had a rollicking good time for the entire book. Archie particularly made me laugh and smile again and again. In one instance, when he’s thrown in jail more reasons of clashing of wills between Wolfe and the police, he organizes a Union and elects a president and treasurer, etc and writes up a bunch of rules that they are going to submit to the Warden. It was pure cheek and was done simply to annoy the Warden. It was done in Archie’s easy going but tough way that you just had to enjoy it!

There is also the confrontational frission between Wolfe and his client. He warns the client to not hire him but that if he does X,Y and Z will happen. Sure enough, they do and Wolfe lambastes the client for complaining about them when he, Wolfe, had already warned him. At first glance Wolfe appears to be an arrogant jackass but when you take into account who we see him interacting with, it’s no surprise and the real wonder is that Wolfe hasn’t become a complete misanthrope to everybody he meets.

Finally, I enjoyed Archie’s romantic sparring with Lily Rowan. They both have no longterm use for the opposite sex or at least to push the idea of marriage as far down the road as possible and as such make great foils for each other. I don’t expect them to get married though and I even wonder if we’ll see Lilly again in future books or not. So far I don’t remember any recurring young women. As long as Archie doesn’t turn into some sort of cad, I’ll be ok with the trend though.

Overall, I just have to sit back and marvel that Rex Stout is such a wordsmith. To make characters like Wolfe and Archie, to craft scenes like the one near the beginning when Wolfe is stuck on top of a boulder while an angry bull stalks around the pasture, it just makes me glad that I did decide to read this series. Good stuff.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Towers of Midnight (The Wheel of Time #13) ★★★★★

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: Towers of Midnight
Series: The Wheel of Time #13
Author: Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 909
Words: 334K



Synopsis:

From Tarvalon.net

Fain corrupts an army of Trollocs and heads south with them.

Elaida’s sul’dam has her demonstrate Traveling. Fortuona decides to use this to attack the White Tower in force.

Aviendha meets a strange Aiel on the way to Rhuidean, who makes her think of the toh the Aiel must pay, their sin and what they will do once it is paid. After going through the glass columns, she wonders if she can sense their purpose like she did with the other ter’angreal and manages to activate them so that they show her descendants rather than her ancestors. They show that the Aiel will be defeated by the Seanchan and reduced to pitiful honorless wretches.

Rand comes from Dragonmount and talks to Almen Bunt. As he talks, apple trees that had previously given shrivelled fruit re-bloom and give a genuine crop. He leaves to talk to Egwene and tell her he means to break the Seals. She decides this is the wrong thing to do and begins to organize resistance to him. He tells her he will meet her at the Field of Merrilor.

Perrin encounters the Whitecloaks, under the command of Galad. Bornhald and Byar tell Galad that Perrin killed Children, including Geofram Bornhald, so in order to avoid a battle, Perrin agrees to a trial, with Morgase as the judge, who Galad has identified. She pronounces him guilty, but declares it a fight between mercenary companies and says Galad should set the punishment. Perrin encounters Slayer in the Dreamworld and finds a ter’angreal that can prevent the opening of gateways. He follows Slayer to the White Tower where he walks into a battle between Aes Sedai and the Black Ajah under the command of Mesaana. Egwene tries to hold him, with rope and chains, but his abilities in Tel’aran’rhiod are too strong and he just shrugs them off. Slayer escapes, but Perrin destroys the ter’angreal, allowing gateways to be formed once more. He realises there is a trap ahead of them and arranges his men to fight Shadowspawn, who arrive through a Portal Stone, with one lone male passing them through. He is able to save the Whitecloaks. Bornhald accepts he is no Darkfriend but Byar does not and tries to kill him, but is killed by Dain. Perrin persuades Galad to give him his allegiance until the last Battle is over. Galad tells Perrin that his punishment will be to pay reparations.

In the Tower, the Bloodknives murder Aes Sedai, but Egwene believes it to be Mesaana. She arranges a meeting with Windfinders and Wise Ones and suggests an alliance, and a new bargain with the Windfinders to replace the one that Elayne made. They decide to think on it. Mesaana and members of the Black Ajah attack and they are forced to battle. Several Black Ajah are killed before Mesaana captures Egwene with an a’dam. Egwene refuses to accept it and it falls away. She then crushes Mesaana’s mind.

Mat discovers the gholam has tracked him. He sends an urgent letter to Elayne and is granted a meeting. He persuades her to make the Dragons, but she insists that Andor will own most of them. He agrees the Band will work for Andor until Rand needs them, but that they can refuse any commission. He tells her about the gholam. He offers her his ter’angreal to study as an encouragement and gets a deal out of her. She is able to make imperfect copies that deflect weak weaves, but not strong ones and do not allow the holder to channel. She decides to tie the Kin to her and arranges for them to be permanently based in Caemlyn, hoping that Egwene will agree. While Mat and Birgitte are out, she visits the Black Ajah, disguised as one of the Forsaken to trick Chesmal into revealing secret information. She gets some, but Temaile, Eldrith and Mellar are freed by Jaq Lounalt and attack her. After a struggle, Mellar escapes with a copy of the foxhead medallion, but the three Black Ajah sisters are killed.

After meeting Elayne, Mat arranges to kill the gholam. He entices it into attacking him, wounding it with his ter’angreal and copies Elayne made. He is able to force it back and through a skimming gateway that Sumeko had opened, where it would fall forever.

Nynaeve Heals Naeff’s madness. She Travels to Tar Valon and takes the test for Aes Sedai, which she passes after some discussion. She then Travels to the Black Tower and takes Lan’s bond. Rand sends Naeff to the Black Tower, to find men loyal to him and tell him he was wrong about Taim.

In the Black Tower, Androl leads the men loyal to Logain. They discover they are unable to open gateways. They note that Kurin seems no longer to be himself, indeed seems to be empty. Pevara also discovers she cannot form a gateway, but when she tries to talk to Tarna, finds that Tarna is behaving oddly and seems unconcerned about the restrictions Taim has placed. Androl comes to her to try and arrange an escape.

Rodel fights a massive Trolloc force, keeping them free of Maradon against all odds. As they are about to be overwhelmed, Bashere arrives and saves them. Rand joins them and obliterates the Trolloc army. Rodel is taken away by Rand, who has found Alsalam.

Mat meets up with Perrin and they tell each other their news. Perrin leaves to meet with Elayne and they arrange a treaty, Perrin is to be High Lord over the Two Rivers which is to be given to the Dragon Reborn and will not pay taxes. Perrin and Faile’s children will be encouraged to marry into Andoran nobility. Perrin heads to the Field of Mellitor, where he aligns with Rand. Elayne strips Arymilla, Elenia and Naean of their titles and offers their estates to powerful Cairhienen lords, promising the Andorans estates in Cairhien. She enters Cairhien to take the throne, though Birgitte has to prevent an assassination attempt.

Mat takes Noal and Thom to the Tower of Ghenjei. They enter and use Mat’s luck to navigate, soon arriving at a room with Moiraine. They tell the Aelfinn they want her and that Mat is willing to pay the price, the loss of his eye. As part of the bargain, he insists the Aelfinn allow them to leave, but forgets to insist on the same with the Eelfinn and they are attacked. Noal admits to being Jain Fairstrider and stays back to fight them off. He is defeated and the Eelfinn approach Mat, Thom and Moiraine. Mat thinks on the last bargain he made and realises that as he didn’t ask for a weapon, the weapon must be something he did ask for – a way out and uses it to slash the sides of the room and they escape. Moiraine tells them her strength in the Power is greatly reduced and that she will marry Thom. She bonds him.

The armies of the Westlands gather at the Field of Merrilor, to oppose the Dragon Reborn.

My Thoughts:

This. This was everything that a Wheel of Time book was supposed to be, every time. Massive in size, in scope and in story yet racing right along with intricate action scenes and politics galore. Sanderson brings the magic back into the storytelling and reminds us of why we stuck it out for over 20 years to see where Jordan was going to take us.

All 3 of the ta’averen, Rand, Matt and Perrin grow up. While it felt rather abrupt, it really fit in with everything that had happened to them before. This was the tipping point where they chose whether to become good men or to stay boys.

This also had one of the saddest parts of the entire series, where Aviendha sees the future instead of the past when going through the Aiel ter’angreal (a magical item). It is sad because you see the descent of the Aiel from feared warriors to scavenging animals and Sanderson really sells it. I could feel the descent, if that makes sense. It is sad also because you see the land and kingdoms we’ve spent the last 13 books reading about eventually being conquered by the Seanchan. I found it amazing how Sanderson managed to describe the next couple hundreds of years and convey the wealth of information that he did in only one chapter. On a third front, it also perfectly expressed how the Wheel of Time kept on rolling after the events chronicled here. This was NOT the Last Battle. Just A Battle.

That brings me to the one thing I am not ok with in the entire Wheel of Time series. The whole Creator and the Dark One entities. The Creator appears to have abandoned the universe after imprisoning the Dark One while the Dark One seems to have been given free reign to escape if he can. Jordan, and thus Sanderson, don’t really go into the theological details of this and that gaping hole bothers me just as much as the apparent Dualism theology presented. Obviously, as a Christian I have a VERY different outlook. I don’t expect my fantasy to align with my beliefs but neither do I simply ignore it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Madame Guillotine (Galaxy’s Edge: Tyrus Rechs #3) ★★★★☆

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: Madame Guillotine
Series: Galaxy’s Edge: Tyrus Rechs #3
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 339
Words: 104.5K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

Leave no man behind.

On Detron, a simmering protest boils over and turns deadly when militants hiding among the demonstrators deliberately shoot down a group of legionnaires, executing one survivor and taking two for ransom. The only Republic asset the captured leejes can rely on is a lone marine sniper who defies orders in a desperate attempt to save them.

But a troubled sea of hostile riots, looting, and murder is too much for anyone to navigate safely.

Except Tyrus Rechs. Following a trail that links the riots and deaths to a demagogue known in the underground as Madame Guillotine, the bounty hunter must fight his way above, beneath, and through the sweltering city to bring the prisoners back home…and make those responsible pay.

Join the adventure as Tyrus Rechs stops at nothing to take down a nefarious conspiracy before it has a chance to take root in the very Republic that wants him dead.

My Thoughts:

TYRANNASQUID!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And imagine if Jabba the Hutt was a 9ft tall warrior crocodile? What if R2D2 was a psychotic little warbot that dreamt of shooting guns and blowing things up? Then combine Boba Fett and Luke Skywalker into one person and BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMM, you have the best Star Wars homage scene that has ever existed. I will be re-reading at least this book some time in the future simply for this part of the story, it was awesome!

Storywise, this felt like the weakest of the Tyrus Rechs series. It is evident that Rechs is reaching the point where he doesn’t care about the Republic anymore but his duty is still driving him. He’s not quite the man we meet in Season One of Galaxy’s Edge but he’s only one step away.

This was a very pointed political book in terms of just how corrupt the Republic has become. It’s not as fun as the previous books nor as “rah rah kick their ass” either. Good soldiers die because of bad political decisions and it is sad.

This is the latest in the Tyrus Rechs sub-series. It was released last year (2020) and I don’t know if there will be another one or not. Personally, this seems like a fitting place for this sub-series to end.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

[Manga Monday] Azumanga Daioh Omnibus ★★★★★

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: Azumanga Daioh Omnibus
Series: Azumanga Daioh #1-4
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 688
Words: 32K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.com

Azumanga Daioh chronicles the everyday life in an unnamed Japanese high school of six girls and two of their teachers: child prodigy Chiyo Mihama and her struggle to fit in with girls five years older; reserved Sakaki and her obsession with the cute animals while certain ones seem to hate her; spacey Ayumu “Osaka” Kasuga with a skewed perspective on the world; Koyomi “Yomi” Mizuhara’s aggravation at an annoying best friend; Tomo Takino, whose energy is rivaled only by her lack of sense; sporty Kagura and her one-sided athletics rivalry with Sakaki; their homeroom teacher Yukari Tanizaki; and her friend, physical education teacher Minamo “Nyamo” Kurosawa.

My Thoughts:

Ahhhh, this was good. This was a fantastic way to say goodby to Azuma’s style in both terms of art and storyline.

What stood out to me the most, as I noted in my previous 2014 review, is just how positive Azuma keeps everything. From Chiyo-chan’s worries about being a 10 year old amongs teenagers, to Sakaki’s secret love of animals to the teacher’s drinking habits, Azuma simply makes his stories light, comforting and fluffy. Just the thing to read when one is feeling sick.

If I could have read these in 4 separate volumes I would have preferred that, but even all at once at close to 700 pages it didn’t feel like it was “too much”. In all honesty, re-reading this allowed me to push off choosing another manga series to read for at least a month, hahahaa 😀

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Chasing the Dragon (Galaxy’s Edge: Tyrus Rechs #2) ★★★★☆

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: Chasing the Dragon
Series: Galaxy’s Edge: Tyrus Rechs #2
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 243
Words: 75.5K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com & Me

They all want the Dragon dead.

The Dragon was trained from his youth to operate as a lethal killing machine. He has tangled with crime lords, dangerous insurgents, even Nether Ops… and none of these forces has been able to bring the elusive warrior to heel.

Enter the notorious bounty hunter Tyrus Rechs.

Rechs takes on the job as a favor to an old Savage Wars buddy. Only Rechs isn’t out to kill the Dragon—his mission is to save the kid’s life. Unless the Dragon kills Rechs first.

The Dragon is the last of an experiment from the Savage Wars, an experiment meant to duplicate Tyrus Rechs. With speed, endurance, healing and other capabilities, the Dragon is a one man army meant to train an army. As a Sinasian, he’s now using his skills to train the Sinasian worlds to break free from the Republic.

That war, justified or not, will cost billions of lives and Rechs can’t let it happen. In league with a Nether Ops agent who wants the Dragon to live out a life of peace, Rechs must find the Dragon, convince him to stop and then get him to safety. When the Nether Ops agent shows her true colors and double crosses Rechs, a Republic Destroyer is on hand to use a crustbuster on the world the Dragon is on. Rechs rescues the Dragon and delivers him to a couple of Dark Ops agents who want what the Nether Ops agent claimed to want.

The books ends with the Dragon dying of old age surrounded by his family and him holding on until Rechs shows up.

My Thoughts:

I have to admit, this book made me feel really bad for the man known as Tyrus Rechs. He carries such a weight on his shoulders and his memories of his past are simply fading away. He remembers Earth, now mythical in status. He knows he’s been around for thousands of years and knows there was a purpose he was meant to fulfill, but details escape him. The unstoppable killing machine he’s become seems to be the only way for him to keep going. That is just very pathos filled.

As an action story, this was great. Rechs is facing off against someone who appears to be just as powerful as him. He’s also going against Sinasians gangs, Sinasian ninjas, Sinasian special forces, Nether Ops, Legionnaires from the Republic as well as other bounty hunters.

It also excels at providing glimpses of backstory for the universe we’re currently reading about. I never felt infodumped on or that “So Bob, let me explain….” feeling that sometimes happens. It really felt organic and like it was directly from Tyrus.

Another fantastic entry in the Galaxy’s Edge universe. In terms of pure enjoyment, this is beating out even Asher’s Polity series. I don’t know how it will stand up to re-reads though. I guess I’ll find out in a decade or so 🙂

Rating: 4 out of 5.