The Hobbit (The Lord of the Rings Prequel) ★★★★★

hobbit (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 Hobbit
Series: The Lord of the Rings Prequel
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 235
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit. Who ends up with a wizard and 13 dwarves for dinner. And somehow gets finagled into going on an adventure to recover the dwarves lost treasure, that is guarded by the dragon Smaug.

Along the way Bilbo meets elves, runs away from goblins, plays a riddle game in the dark with Gollum for his life, finds a ring of invisibility, flies on eagles’ wings, fights giant spiders and is almost eaten by 3 trolls.

Eventually he and the dwarves reach the Lonely Mountain and Laketown. They rouse the dragon and Bard of Laketown kills Smaug and then elves, humans and dwarves prepare to fight over the treasure. Until a huge goblin army shows up and everybody fights them. The good guys win, the treasure is shared and Bilbo returns home a better, wiser and more eccentric hobbit than ever.

 

My Thoughts:

What a book. I’ve read this enough times that nothing is a surprise. And yet… I am still in awe at how Tolkien weaves such a children’s tale so as to keep me intrigued, for the umpteenth time.

What do I say? A simple tale of adventure that is the prequel to one of the worlds most renowned fantasy series? A tale of bravery, generosity and kindness overcoming perils, greed and hatred? A stout heart being greater than a dragon? I just don’t know what to say beyond the fact that I enjoyed the heck out of this just like I have all the previous times and I don’t have any issues with it.

Well, except maybe all the singing. I wouldn’t have minded if there hadn’t been any singing. In regards to the singing though, the only thing I can say positively about the horrific movie trilogy is that the song by the dwarves in Bilbo’s house is absolutely haunting and enchanting. Who knows how long this link will exist, but here’s a youtube link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8ymgFyzbDo

If only the Silmarillion had been this interesting. Well, at least I’ve got the rest of the Trilogy to look forward too!

★★★★★

 

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Target Rich Environment (TRE #1) ★★★★★

targetrichenvironment (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: Target Rich Environment
Series: TRE #1
Author: Larry Correia
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Short Story Collection
Pages: 359
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of many of Correia’s short stories that have only been published in magazines throughout the years. 2 Audible Exclusives were also turned into text, one taking place in the Grimnoir Universe and one about an Interdimensional Insurance Agent.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a rollicking good time. I was reading along, having a blast, figuring I’d give it 4 stars and then I read the final piece about Tom Stranger the Interdimensional Insurance Agent and this rocketed up to a 5 Star lickety-split! The humor in Tom Stranger might not appeal to everyone but it was certainly right up my alley.

I’d read a couple of these before, namely Tanya, Princess of the Elves that takes place in the MHI universe and is about how Tanya and Edward the Urk meet. Just as good the second time around. There were 2 Grimnoir Chronicles stories, one a prequel, Christmas in Detroit and a sequel, Murder on the Orient Elite. Jake Sullivan is a fantastic protagonist as he’s smart, capable and not just a Gary Stu.

The rest of the new stuff was a lot of fun to read too. Several of the stories took place in pre-existing franchise universes (mainly games) and while good, didn’t stand out to me. The one that really did stand out was a Cthulhu horror’esque story about a planet where humanity accidentally awakens an old one of that world which ripples out and the story ends with the Old One on Earth beginning to stir, so you know Humanity is DOOMED! If you’ve ever read much Lovecraft, this story would have fit in perfectly.

I don’t know what else to say. I never review each story in a collection, as that would make a review of a short story collection about 10,000 words and that would kill any joy for me. I am giving this the “Best Book of the Year” tag not for any richness or deep insights but because it kicked ass in every single story and I had so much fun reading it. After the debacle of Valor, this was needed to restore my faith in authors as a whole. If you ever do read this, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Highly Recommended

★★★★★

 

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The Changeling Sea ★★★★☆

changelingsea (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 Changeling Sea
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 142
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Peri’s father went to sea in his rowboat and only his boat returned. Her mother has retreated inside herself and Peri is angry at life itself. She leaves her mother’s house and lives in a shack by the sea where an old woman taught her the fine art of hexing. Peri creates as many hexes as she can think of and one day throws them all into the sea and hexes the sea for stealing her father.

The King of the Island and his son Kir come into their summer residence and Peri meets Kir one night on the beach. He confesses that he has found out he is a changeling and part sea creature. He desires to go to the sea but can’t find the way. Peri is interested against her will. Then a monstrous sea creature is seen with a golden chain around its neck. The villagers hire a magician, Lyo, to tame the sea monster and take the golden chain for them. Lyo gets Peri to help him and accidentally turns the golden chain into a rain of periwinkle flowers. Nobody is very happy with Lyo, who disappears.

The next night Peri is at her shack when she sees the sea monster approaching the shore. It comes onto the shore and turns into a young man, very like Kir in appearance but golden where Kir is dark. This young man can only repeat words he has heard and so Peri begins to teach him words. But each night before the sun rises this golden prince returns to the sea and his monstrous form. Peri is bewildered and Lyo reveals himself to her. They figure out that the golden boy is the prince by the King’s dead wife who was taken by the Queen of the Sea, who was the lover of the King. She substituted her own son, Kir. Now each son is yearning to return to their native element but neither can figure out how.

Peri, with help from Lyo, solves the mystery. Her hex worked and it was so powerful that it hexed the whole sea. Peri unhexes the sea and that allows them to commune with the Sea Queen and Kir can return to the sea while the golden prince can return to the land. Peri realizes how powerful she is and Lyo says he’ll stick around to help her out.

 

My Thoughts:

Very enjoyable, very short and one of the most “romance’y” of McKillip’s books. While not Harlequin Romance or even most Paranormal Romance level, this was on the edge of what I’d be willing to read. That is about the only caveat I have for this book.

The shortness of this book really struck me this time. I started it one evening during the week and I was done the next night. It was kind of nice actually. I felt like I had gotten a small personal pan pizza instead of some huge buffet. Just enough to get a good taste but not enough to satiate or make you sick of it. Gluttony of words by authors is as much a sin, as far as I’m concerned, as is actual gluttony.

This lacked something, a richness I guess, that I’m used to in McKillip’s writing and that is why I’m only giving it 4 stars. Still, that is a Star upgrade from 2007. If you like McKillip’s other books, you’ll like this. Whether you’ll like it more, less or the same as her other books will depend on your personal tastes.

★★★★☆

 

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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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Kellanved’s Reach (Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #3) ★★★★☆

kellanvedsreach (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: Kellanved’s Reach
Series: Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #3
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 340
Format: Hardcover Edition

 

Synopsis:

Not much of a single plot running through this book. More like the many, diverse threads like you see at the beginning of a very large and complicated weaving process.

Kellanved finds the Throne of Bone and is allowed by the T’lan Imass to “rule” over them. Kellanved and Dancer meet the Crippled God for the first time and it doesn’t go well.

Surly continues to do all the hard work of creating an empire. She also successfully pulls of a coup on her brother, who ousted her in the first place. She is the de facto leader even while making Napan part of the “Malazan Empire”. Her discontent with Kellanved and his methods continue to grow.

The blind girl who can communicate with birds has her journey and she is called to the Northern Wastes to become some people’s shaman (the Jheck perhaps?)

We also follow 2 new characters who long to join the Crimson Guard. One is a mage and the other a battle mage that doesn’t know it. They do a lot of fighting and we get to see how the rift between K’azz and Skinner starts.

Finally, we follow a mercenary general who saves his troops despite their contract holder selling them out. He leads the opposing forces a merry chase and after killing a K’chain Ch’malle (or however it is spelled) is rescued by the Malazans and is introduced as Grey Mane.

 

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this with just a few caveats that kept it from being a 4 1/2star read or higher. First, the lack of a plot running through the book was distracting. The previous 2 books had their own little in book plots and this one should have too. Second, Kellanved finding and using the Throne of Bone was very underwhelming. It was rushed through to make room for everything else. Thirdly, too many various things were happening for such a short book. Finally, this felt “simple” in comparison to Esslemont’s Empire of Malaz series and almost childish in comparison to Erikson’s Book of the Fallen. Mind you, I didn’t want reams of empty philosophy but the dexterous storytelling I am used to from both authors just wasn’t there. This was like Glen Cook in one of his better Black Company books.

I realize that sounds like a lot, but while I complain a lot about Erikson and by extension Esslemont, I still expect some seriously well written stuff from them.

What I liked the best was how Esslemont shows just how humorous Kellanved really is, in a young/old way that just made me grin. The insecurity of youth coupled with youth’s propensity for brashness allied with an old man’s crotchedyness. It was perfect. Dancer very much played the Straight Man in this comedy duo and I could totally see them going up on stage during an Improv Night and doing horrible amateur comedy. And then killing the entire audience for not laughing loud enough!

While I felt there were too many threads being started here, I did really appreciate just how even a glimpse or two of a character was enough to fill in a ton of back story for them form the Fallen series. I knew Skinner, from the Crimson Guard was a real bastard but here we see how he got his name and how much he relished violence and why that would lead him into eventual conflict with K’azz.

Technically this is a prequel trilogy but I would not recommend reading this at all before the Book of the Fallen or Empire of Malaz series. Too much of the revelations in those series would be spoiled and half the fun would simply disappear. I do highly recommend this trilogy though if you made it through the entire set of series and came out alive.

★★★★☆

 

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The Gabble and Other Stories (Polity #12) ★★★★★

gabble (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 Gabble and Other Stories
Series: Polity #12
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 384
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories ranging all throughout Asher’s Polity Universe.

 

My Thoughts:

Several stories deal with the Gabbleducks, which we know are the deliberately devolved descendants of the Atheter. We also get one story about the Csorians, the 2nd alien lifeform wiped out by the jaintech; from how the story goes it appears that they won’t be making any reappearances in Asher’s writings any time soon. Another story has Penny Royal involved. Since Penny Royal got its own trilogy, I’ve been paying a lot more attention any time it is mentioned.

In my last review, The Technician, I mistakenly claimed that this book explained how the Atheter mem-crystal was found. That is not so. Instead, a bit of the original is used as bait in one story and that is how I got things messed up. The Technician should be #11 in the Polity series and this one the 12th.

I gave this 5stars this time around because of several reasons. One, I really do enjoy the short story format when there is a bunch of them all by one author. It really works for me. Two, I enjoyed this just as much as I did back in ’12, if not more. Third, I plan on enjoying this just as much when I re-read it yet again in another decade or so. Finally, I enjoyed this a ton of a lot more than I have the previous 3 SF books I’ve posted on the previous Fridays.

★★★★★

 

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Hogfather (Discworld) ★★★★★

hogfather (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: Hogfather
Series: Discworld
Author: Terry Pratchett
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

It is Hogwatch Night and the Hogfather is flying across the world in his red suit and white beard and 4 jolly boars delivering gifts to all the children. However, this Hogwatch Night the Hogfather is looking a little different. He’s a bit bony in the face, he has to stuff a pillow up the suit to give him that jolly fat look and his ho ho ho’s are more like HO, HO, HO! Yes, Death has taken over being the Hogfather for the night.

Now, where did this all start? The Auditors. Of Reality. They hired the Assassin’s Guild to kill the Hogfather. The head of the Guild, thinking it an impossible job, assigns it to Mr Teatime, an assassin who has been causing problems lately with how much he’s been killing. He’s got no style, you know? So the HAG (Head of the Assassins Guild) gives the job to Teatime. Either he’ll succeed and the Guild will get a cavern of gold or Teatime will fail and they can let him go and be done with him. Teatime has thought about just this kind of situation and he has answers.

And that is why Death is pretending to be the Hogfather. He can’t interfere with the Auditors directly but he sets his granddaughter Susan on the case. She tracks down Teatime, who has used the power of the Tooth Fairy make children NOT believe in the Hogfather. She and the newly created god of Hangovers, with the help from a tooth fairy helper, take down the insane assassin.

It is revealed that if the Hogfather doesn’t exist, the sun won’t rise. This will destroy all life on Discworld and THAT is the final goal of the Auditors. Life is messy and doesn’t really fit into neat check boxes, so they want to get rid of it. All of it.

Can Death, Susan and sundry others Save the Most Magical Night of the Year? Of course! Not even Pratchett was so full of bilious hatred and vitriol against Christmas that he’d write otherwise. But he gets his revenge on the readers by getting all metaphysical for at least 3 solid pages. What a rotter.

 

My Thoughts:

My goodness, it has been a bloody decade since I last read this! Still 5stars, still a favorite and still just as good as last time.

This time around I concentrated on the character of Teatime. And you know what? He takes up a VERY small portion of the book even while being a main villain and the killer of the Hogfather. It is like he casts a huge shadow over the whole book while only being a skinny little twig. He has such presence though that I “remembered” him having a much larger role. I think it does say something for Pratchett’s skill that he can make a such a small used character be so big. Of course, him facing down Death himself right at the end does show he had some pretty big cojones.

Death gets a great bit of action and I just laughed and laughed. When Corporal Nobbs, the most venal member of the Watch, gets a super duper assault crossbow from the big red sack and he goes nutso with excitement, I just about died. It also made me remember H.P’s review of the lamest Robin Hood movie ever, complete with “assault crossbows”. Maybe it would have been a good movie if Knobby Nobbs had showed up, hahahahaa. Anyway, I did a lot of laughing.

Susan plays a huge part but unlike Teatime she was so exasperated all the time that she couldn’t be “normal” that it wore a little thin. We get it, she doesn’t want to be Death’s granddaughter. Honey, get over it. You don’t really get to pick your relatives. She started out funny with beating the crap out of monsters under the bed with a poker but became almost grating by the end.

The Unseen Academy and the Wizards are involved, as is HEX the thinking machine. HEX going insane and taking digital frog pills to cure itself was just about the highlight for me.

The only downside to this book was the few pages of metaphysics that Pratchett throws in. All crap about Justice and Mercy and Hope being nothing but lies. Then he took it do a bad place where you can’t believe those things if you don’t believe other lies, like the Tooth Fairy. What a hopeless and utterly futile way to live. He just couldn’t resist allowing his bitter hatred against God, or even the idea of God to peek on through. Thankfully, it wasn’t enough to spoil the whole book. However, I tend to think I’ll have to wait another decade before I try this again.

★★★★★

 

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