Too Many Women (Nero Wolfe #12) ★★★☆☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Too Many Women
Series: Nero Wolfe #12
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 213
Words: 73.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

When a major engineering corporation conducts a survey into high employee turnover, a report is returned claiming that Waldo Moore, an employee recently killed in what was believed to be a hit-and-run accident, was murdered. The company president, Jasper Pine, approaches Nero Wolfe and hires him to find out whether this claim is true. Archie Goodwin is sent undercover as an outside consultant and assigned to investigate the stock department, where Moore worked, and is amazed to discover 500 beautiful women employed as secretaries and assistants.

Archie discovers that Moore was notorious among the employees as a lothario but had become engaged to Hester Livsey, a stenographer. He quickly identifies numerous possible suspects for Moore’s murder — in addition to Livsey, these include Rosa Bendini, who had enjoyed a dalliance with Moore; Bendini’s jealous estranged husband Harold Anthony; Gwynne Ferris, who had tried to seduce Moore but was rebuffed; Benjamin Frenkel, a supervisor who had developed feelings for Ferris and had been rebuffed; and Sumner Hoff, a hot-headed technical advisor who had gotten into a physical fight with Moore, which was believed to be over Livsey. As gossip begins to spread among the employees about Archie’s true mission, he begins to clash with Kerr Naylor, the eccentric and unpleasant department supervisor who lodged the initial report claiming that Moore was murdered.

During one confrontation, Naylor reveals that he knows Archie’s true identity, and that Moore had been given his job due to the intervention of Naylor’s sister Cecily, who is also married to Jasper Pine. Naylor and Cecily are the children of one of the founders of the company, and Naylor resents Pine being promoted over him. Naylor also claims that he knows the identity of Moore’s murderer, but when Archie reveals this in a report to the company directors he changes his story and claims Archie was lying. Cecily Pine meets with Wolfe, asking him to drop the investigation.

When an article about Wolfe’s investigation appears in the newspapers, Inspector Cramer confronts Wolfe in his office about what he knows. The increasingly heated and childish argument is interrupted by a phone call for Cramer; Kerr Naylor has been found dead, killed in a seeming hit-and-run accident in exactly the same manner and location that Waldo Moore had been found. The similarity of the deaths and the location remove any doubt that both men have been the victim of homicide. Wolfe had previously assigned Saul Panzer to shadow Naylor and, while Saul had lost the tail before Naylor’s murder, Saul managed to witness Naylor arguing with Hester Livsey hours before his death, with Sumner Hoff also present at the scene.

The company directors hire Wolfe to solve the murder of Kerr Naylor in addition to Waldo Moore. Archie hints to Livsey that he is aware of her meeting with Naylor prior to his death, and her suspicious reaction convinces him that she knows even more of the matter than she has let on. Archie persuades her to come to Wolfe’s office for an interview, but Sumner Hoff tags along, suspicious and confrontational towards both Archie and Wolfe. When Wolfe challenges them regarding her meeting with Naylor, both claim that they were with each other at the time, concocting an overly detailed story as corroboration. While the lie is obvious, it is also sufficiently unbreakable to completely stall the investigation.

Insulted by the transparency of Livsey’s lie, Wolfe concocts a plan to expose the truth. Archie stages a meeting with Livsey which, with Archie’s prodding, quickly results in the rumour spreading that Livsey knows the identity of the murderer. Livsey eventually cracks under the pressure and insists that she will reveal the truth to anyone other than Jasper Pine. Archie convinces her to accompany him to the brownstone for her protection, where Wolfe summons Cecily Pine by informing her that he knows who the murderer is.

When she arrives, Cecily Pine confirms Wolfe’s suspicions—the murderer was her husband, Jasper Pine. Pine and Livsey had begun a clandestine affair, but Pine had become increasingly obsessed with her. Although unbothered by the actual affair, Cecily had begun to worry that her husband’s obsession was threatening their comfortable lifestyle, and so persuaded Moore to seduce Livsey away from her husband. When Moore and Livsey ended up falling in love, Pine was driven to a jealous rage and murdered Moore. Cecily confided in her brother, and Naylor used the information to try and force Pine out of the company presidency and seize it for himself, but Pine murdered him.

Before the authorities can be notified, Wolfe receives news that Jasper Pine has committed suicide. Wolfe and Archie realise that Cecily contacted her husband before meeting Wolfe, and manipulated him into taking his own life. The investigation is closed, and Archie ends the novel by arranging a simultaneous date with Hester Livsey, Rosa Bendini and Gwynne Ferris.

My Thoughts:

I did not enjoy this as much as some of the other Nero Wolfe books I’ve read. A big part of it is that Archie gets involved with 3 different women and one of them is married and he knows it and it doesn’t change his attitude or behavior. The other part is that Wolfe is just crabby the whole time because of all the women and he’s not very brilliant at all in my opinion. Plus, the guy who kicks the whole thing off, Kerr Naylor, is the worst sort of jackass. I wanted to reach into the book and punch him until he pooped his teeth out. Thankfully, he’s killed, so I felt some satisfaction, even if it wasn’t me doing the killing.

Overall, this felt mediocre and neither Wolfe or Archie came across as interesting as they have previously. If this had been my first Nero Wolfe book I’d probably not pick up another. Thankfully, with this being #12 in the series, there’s a lot of good will built up by all the great books that came before to tide me over.

Definitely NOT the place to start your exploration of Rex Stout. He’s written much better Nero Wolfe adventures, so I’d recommend starting at the beginning. I’m just chalking this up to Stout having a mediocre writing day.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Uncollected Father Brown Stories ★★✬☆☆

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Title: The Uncollected Father Brown Stories
Series: Father Brown #6
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 75
Words: 20K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

The Donnington Affair

The Mask of Midas

My Thoughts:

“….you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
~ Revelation 3:15b-16

One week after finishing this collection of 2 stories I can’t remember a thing about them. The Father Brown stories had started to wear on me so I was looking forward to a much shorter experience, but I wasn’t expecting something so completely bland that I forgot it right after reading it.

There was nothing bad but there was nothing good, hence the Bible verse. Thank goodness the Father Brown stories are done!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Fatal Encounter ★★✬☆☆

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Title: Fatal Encounter
Series: The Adventures of Bass Reeves Deputy US Marshal #1
Authors: Charles Ray
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 119
Words: 41.5K



Synopsis:

Bass Reeves, the first black US Marshal, regularly deals with outlaws in the Indian Territories of the late 1800’s. After a Texas Ranger enters the Territories going after a gang and gets killed, it is up to Reeves to track down the desperado and bring him to final justice.

My Thoughts:

I wanted to like this western. However, the writing was mediocre and the story not much more than “and then he tracked the bad guy down and killed him”. Throw in the authors perpetuation of the Noble Savage myth and well, liberal ideology about race plays a big part of the story.

I won’t be reading any more though because of just how mediocre and banal this was. It wasn’t exciting, it wasn’t tense and writing was pedestrian at best. I won’t waste more time on an author who can’t write better than this. Plus, Bass Reeves was a real man and he deserves something better than this to represent everything he stood for and what he did.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The Chinese Orange Mystery ★★★☆☆

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 Chinese Orange Mystery
Series: Ellery Queen
Authors: Ellery Queen
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 172
Words: 70.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

A wealthy publisher and collector of precious stones and Chinese postage stamps has a luxurious suite in a hotel that serves to handle his non-publishing business and the comings and goings of his staff, his relatives, and his female friends. When an odd and anonymous little man arrives and refuses to state his business, no one is surprised; he is locked (from outside only) in an anteroom with a bowl of fruit (including tangerines, also known as Chinese oranges) and left to await the publisher’s arrival. When the door is unlocked, though, a truly bizarre scene is displayed.

The little man’s skull is crushed, his clothing is reversed, back to front, all the furnishings of the room have been turned backwards — and two African spears have been inserted between the body and its clothing, stiffening it into immobility. The circumstances are such that someone has been observing every entrance to the room, and no one has apparently entered or left. The situation is further complicated by some valuable jewelry and stamps, the publisher’s business affairs and romantic affaires, and a connection with “backwardness” for seemingly every character. It takes the considerable talents of Ellery Queen to sort through the motives and lies and arrive at the twisted logic that underlies every aspect of this very unusual crime.

My Thoughts:

First off, this whole time (however long since I’ve heard that Ellery Queen was a mystery writer) I have thought that Queen was a woman. A Grand Dame of the Golden Age of Mystery Writers. So imagine my surprise when it turns out that not only is Ellery Queen the writer AND main character of the series but that HE is a young middle aged private detective living at home with his father.

Yeaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh.

There was no real order listed on the library site I borrowed this from so I pretty much randomly poked my finger at a title and said “I am reading YOU”. I guess this is book 8? Didn’t really seem to matter though.

This reminded me of Dorothy Sayers and her Lord Peter Wimsey and not in a positive way. While there were no railroad schedules or pages of fake code to decode, there was an exhausting amount of detail that didn’t matter to me as I just wanted a fething mystery to read about, not solve. I’ve talked about that aspect of mysteries that I despise but since a large segment of the mystery community wants such garbage, well, the authors pander to them and not to me. It was a very shocking realization to my delicate and fragile ego.

I have to admit, I am not having a good feeling about the longevity of the friendship struck up between me and Queen. I’m giving Queen 3 books to impress me and then it’s cement shoes for him if he doesn’t. These authors think they’re big stuff and as a reader, I’ve learned to put them in their place. With cement shoes.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Death-Reach 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: Death-Reach 2
Editor: Cathleen Jordan
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 145
Words: 58K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

UNIDENTIFIED AND DEAD – Bryce Walton

THE BIG BAJOOR – Borden Deal

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON KITE – Edward D. Hoch

FAT JOW AND THE DEMON – Robert Alan Blair

ALL THE SAME – Bill Pronzini

TWO WOMEN—TWO VICTIMS – Donald Honig

HEAVEN IS A FRAME OF MIND – Richard Hardwick

THE OPERATOR – Jack Ritchie

DEATH BY CALCULATION – Donald Martin

FIESTA TIME – Douglas Campbell

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD – John Crowe

My Thoughts:

I actually read this back in January when I was out of work due to covid. It had somehow gotten lost in the mix however, so I never wrote up anything about it.

This was not an actual “Alfred Hitchcock” presents anthology. These were all stories that did appear in his magazine but I don’t know if that was when he was running it or after. He’s not the editor here, but some other person and personally, I blame her for the utter mediocrity of this collection.

I didn’t dislike any particular story but at the same time none of them hit me in the gut either like so many of Hitchcock’s other collections have. It probably didn’t help that I was sick with covid while reading this either.

But the biggest thing is that this book exemplifies WHY I blog at WordPress, Blogspot and Librarything. I had added it to my LT library but never reviewed it, so at least I knew I had read it. Multiple redundancies are a bloggers best friend. Can you imagine the horror of having read this and never recording it? My record would be marred!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The White Tree (Cycle of Arawn #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: The White Tree
Series: Cycle of Arawn #1
Author: Edward Robertson
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Words: 190K



Synopsis:

From Cycle-of-arawn.fandom.com

Dante Galand is a teenager living in the nation of Mallon, not far from the capital of Bressel. One day, while exploring the woods around the village where he grew up, he stumbles upon a ruined temple of Arawn, god of death and the power of the nether, summarily banned in Mallon on religious grounds. In the temple he finds a copy of the Cycle of Arawn, the holy book of Arawn’s followers. The temple is guarded. Dante kills the guard, takes the book, and heads to Bressel to research.

In Bressel, he hires Blays Buckler, an armsman of the same age as Dante, to watch his back while he studies, fearful of the other Arawnites who continue to hunt him and the Cycle. During a fight with the pursuing Arawnites in an alley, Dante subconsciously summons a shadowsphere, a basic trick of the nether. He and Blays flee Bressel and spend the next couple weeks camped by a pond in the woods outside Bressel before the Arawnites catch up and they move on. They make their way to the small city of Whetton, where they face down and kill another pair of Arawnite hunters, one of them a nethermancer. The next day, Blays is arrested by the guards of Whetton for the killings. Dante escapes by chance, having not been in their room at the time.

Unwilling to leave Blays to the gallows, Dante holes up in a mausoleum in the local graveyard where he meets an old man named Cally, who tells him about the Arawnites’ scheme to use the Cycle as bait for new nethermancers and begins to teach Dante how to use the nether, starting with the use of your own blood to amplify the nether’s power. Dante spends a good deal of the week reading the Cycle- particularly the story of Jack Hand- and contemplating ducks. On the day Blays is due to be hanged, Dante attacks the guards, causing a very large mess and saving Blays. As they ride away on stolen horses, Dante passes out after exhausting his control of the nether.

He wakes up in a temple Cally has been living in, and spends several days recovering and reading the Cycle- the part of it written in Mallish, at least. Cally eventually tells Dante, Blays, and the other two men rescued from Whetton that they’ll have to leave soon. He recommends heading north, to the Dead City, Narashtovik. It’s where Dante will be able to find teachers and knowledge about both the nether and the final third of the Cycle, which is written in Gaskan. It’s also the source of a string of recent attacks and general unrest centered in Bressel and Collen. Cally suggests that if Blays and Dante are able to work their way into the city and kill Samarand, the current High Priestess of Arawn and ruler of Narashtovik, they will be able to avert a religious war directed at Mallon in the name of Arawn, who they plan to release from his godly prison.

Dante and Blays leave Cally’s temple with Robert Hobble, one of the other men from Whetton. They’re attacked on the road by half a dozen Arawnites led by Will Palomar. They drive their attackers off, but Robert is badly injured. Dante heals Robert as best he can, and they continue on. They stop in the town of Shay, where they meet Gabe, a norren monk of Mennok and an old friend of Cally’s. While at Gabe’s monastery, the town is caught up in the Unlocking, wherein all of the undercover Arawnites hidden in the Mallish temples of other gods revealed themselves and attacked the others. After a fight for the temple, Gabe sends the three of them on their way. They cross the Norren Territories without incident and make it the rest of the way to Narashtovik unmolested. Robert leaves them just outside the city and they continue alone.

After a few days of research and resupplying in Narashtovik, Dante presents himself at the Cathedral of Ivars with a copy of the Cycle. It’s not the one he found in Mallon, the true original copy, but one of passably similar age found in a ruined building in Narashtovik itself. He and Blays walk right into the cathedral and all but throw the book at the first priest they find, which happens to be Nak Randal. Dante demands a place in the Arawnite order and a teacher. Larrimore, Samarand’s Hand, is summoned to deal with them. They are eventually granted a place inside the walls of the Sealed Citadel. Dante spends his time learning Gaskan with Nak and Blays spends his time training with the Citadel’s soldiers. After a brief stint in the dungeons over the issue of the non-original Cycle, a fact since discovered by the priests, Dante gets a minor promotion and Larrimore begins to send him and Blays on errands in the city like rounding up petty criminals with minor nethereal talents.

In time, Dante is set to creating reservoirs of nether by infusing old bones with the power and writing on them in blood. It also comes to light that Samarand was once a priest on the Council of Narashtovik under Cally. She spearheaded the effort to have him removed as the High Priest on the basis of advancing age. When Cally was finally forced out fifteen years before the start of the book, she took over the position. A week before the Council is set to leave to free Arawn, an assassin nearly kills Dante in the middle of the night, sent by Cally on suspicion that Dante had given up on the plan to kill Samarand. He and Blays hide the body in a haystack outside, and within a week they’re riding out of the city with Samarand, Larrimore, half the Council, and a large escort of soldiers and priests for Barden, the White Tree. They’re attacked by local rebels, displeased with Samarand’s war, partway to Barden and defeat them.

Under Barden, Samarand and the six Council priests set to a massive, draining ritual to unleash Arawn. Dante and Blays wait, biding their time until they can strike. The ritual is nearly complete when the priests realize something isn’t right. Dante steps forward with the true original Cycle and all hell breaks loose. Cally reveals himself, having been disguised as Jackson, one of the Council priests, for some time. He immediately goes into battle with Samarand while Dante and Blays turn on the rest of the priests and soldiers. One of the other Council priests, Baxter, turns on the rest of the Council, though he’s quickly killed by Larrimore, who arrives from the bottom of the hill and demands answers. During the fighting, Dante knocks a limb free from the great bone tree. It’s conveniently sword-shaped, and he takes it. In the end, the battle comes down Cally against Samarand and Dante against Larrimore. When Samarand and Larrimore both lie dead, along with the rest of the Council priests present, Cally speaks to the gathered soldiers and assumes command. On their return to Narashtovik, he tells the remnants of the Council what happened under Barden. Olivander, next in line for the seat of High Priest, nearly came to blows with Cally over his hand in Samarand’s death, but in the end let it go in the name of rebuilding the decimated Council. Dante demanded a seat, and Cally supported it, making Dante by far the youngest Councilman at sixteen.

After a couple months of learning the city and his place in it and of generally relaxing, Dante talks with Blays. Spring is coming and Blays is restless, and means to leave. Dante decides to go with him. He gets nominal approval from Cally to make the two of them official delegates to Bressel, though they intend to do whatever they wish and Cally knows it. Cally tells Dante to consider how Narashtovik might help the cause of norren independence- he had apparently promised Gabe that he would fight for it, in exchange for help reclaiming his seat at the head of the Council. Dante and Blays leave Narashtovik and head south. They stop in Whetton and visit Robert Hobble before continuing on to Bressel.

My Thoughts:

If you’ve ever read Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, or are even a bit familiar with Welsh mythology, the name Arawn should be familiar to you. He is a death god and as such is considered to be a pretty bad guy. Robertson either digs deeper into Welsh Lore than I care to, or just does whatever the feth he feels like and makes Arawn the great god who helped humankind and was locked away because of it. Not going to get any sympathy from me. Death is evil and at some point will be destroyed, thank God.

Do you really want to free this guy?

Anyway, this had potential. But that was it. It was overlong, over written, confusing at times and odd word choices that removed me from the flow of the narrative were used. The most egregrious was the word “smited”. I can’t find that word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I have a feeling the writer used the rules of the english language and created that word based on that instead of looking up the proper form, which would been “smitten”. If any of you can find the word “smited”, please let me know.

The story contained should have been no more than 250 pages. Lots of extraneous detail (probably put in for “world building (heaven save us from that filthy thing)), little side journeys or happenings that didn’t advance the plot but fluffed the page count, it all just added up to one big Bloviated book.

Then you have the character of Dante. He’s this 16 year old who saw some guy heal a dog way back when and so decided to become a disciple of Arawn (or at least read the religious book of Arawn) to become what is in essence a wizard. How does he do that? He reads the book and his innate ability allows him to. There were a couple of times where he uses what is a huge burst of magic to push people back and I had to wonder why he didn’t use a much smaller amount to twirl a sword through the air and kill people. Nothing says “cool magic” like a flying sword. While the magic system wasn’t layed out for us the reader, that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that Dante didn’t try to figure them out for himself. Or if he did, it was lost in all the wordiness and lost.

Finally, why did Dante interrupt the ritual near the end to prevent the return of Arawn? If he’s such an upstanding god who just wants to be buddy buddy’s with humanity, and whose religious book can empower people, why? The reason given is that then the acolytes of Arawn would go off to war. But don’t you think Arawn himself might have something to say about that? If they bring him back, he’s not going just be a puppet for them to use.

By the end of this book I was ready for it to be done and I had zero interest in the rest of the trilogy. Robertson isn’t a good enough author to cut down his own work, so I’m not going to waste my time on any more of his books.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Frightful’s Mountain (My Side of the Mountain #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: Frightful’s Mountain
Series: My Side of the Mountain #3
Author: Jean George
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 146
Words: 55.5K



Synopsis:

From Bookrags.com

In “Frightful’s Mountain”, Frightful, the female peregrine falcon formerly a pet of Sam Gribley, attempts to reintegrate into the wild, while maintaining her ties with Sam and Bitter Mountain. The novel begins where “On the Far Side of the Mountain” ends: Sam, knowing that it is illegal for him to keep a pet peregrine falcon, and wanting Frightful to have a good and full life in the wild, refuses to call Frightful to him when he sees her flying around in the sky. Frightful then befriends and becomes the mate of Chup, a male peregrine falcon, and becomes the adoptive mother to Chup’s motherless children, Drum, Lady, and Duchess. It is a crash course for Frightful, who must not only learn to eat new kinds of food –primarily ducks and other birds, whereas she had been trained to hunt small game by Sam –but to care for wild baby falcons.

As November comes on, and all the falcons and other birds migrate south, Frightful stays on, determined to find her old mountain, and her old home. She is electrocuted on a utility pole, nearly killed, by nursed back to health by falconers Jon and Susan Wood, and is released in the spring. Frightful seeks out Bitter Mountain, and finds Sam, where she spends some time with him and hunts. She then decides to nest on the bridge in the town of Delhi. She attracts a mate named 426, a bird tagged and tracked by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and she lays three eggs. Yet, as this happens, a construction crew moves onto the bridge to begin work. Sam sneaks up to the bridge every day, and spends hours keeping Frightful calm, so she can incubate her eggs. Leon Longbridge, the local conservation officer, and a group of school kids, including Molly and Jose, try to get the construction to cease until Frightful’s babies hatch, but the crew cannot stop work without orders from the state government. The construction crewmembers feel bad they cannot stop work, but they have no choice in the matter. Attempts to move Frightful and her eggs fail, so when it comes time to paint the bridge, the crews decide they will paint the section of the bridge with Frightful on it, last. Finally, Frightful’s babies hatch.

One morning, two agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show up to remove two of the baby falcons. In reality, they are Bate and Skri, two poachers arrested in “On the Far Side of the Mountain”, and back in the business of illegal selling of falcons. Sam helps track them down, and the police arrest Bate and Skri as they hide out in the old summer lodge of nature writer John Burroughs. From there, Frightful’s two babies will be raised and hacked into the wild. Meanwhile, Frightful raises her daughter, Oski, on her own on Bitter Mountain with Sam. Ultimately, they all fly south for the winter. When Frightful returns, she visits Sam as usual, but decides to nest in town, rather than on Bitter Mountain. Oski, however, decides that Sam’s mountain is a perfect place to nest.

My Thoughts:

Ok, here we go. There was a forward. I skipped it until I’d finished the book and then I went back and read it. It was written by Bob Kennedy Jr. While I can’t say anything about JFK, I can say that I’ve seen nothing good from his living relatives throughout the decades so a Kennedy’s name in the forward was not a good thing or an added draw. Especially when he goes off about how George inspired him to become a lawyer. Great, just what our country needs, more lawyers. Thanks a lot Jean George.

Secondly, and more to the point, this wasn’t much of a novel, middle grade or otherwise. It was much more of a National Geographic eco-documentary about birds. Sure, Sam is mentioned and some stupid kids and even dumber adults act emotionally and irrationally in response to “evil” electric companies and state governments but that’s not enough to make a real story out of.

Thirdly, but in conjunction with the above, this was written 40 years later and shows that George was more concerned with her message than actually telling a story. It was a big disappointment to see how George treated her human characters and how she leveraged the popularity of her first book to sell this one.

Overall, the first book should have been left alone as a standalone. It was excellent and fun and told a wonderful story. Each successive book has gone down hill and I suspect the two books after this one to be even worse. I certainly won’t be finding out.

Someone asked me why I was reading these books when I reviewed the second book and it basically comes down to trying to read some middle grade so I don’t take everything so seriously. To replace this series I’ll be adding most of Roald Dahl’s children’s books to the rotation. At least that I know will be light and funny.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Exodus: Empires at War, Part II ★★✬☆☆

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: Exodus: Empires at War, Part II
Series: Exodus: Empires at War #2
Author: Doug Dandridge
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 283
Words: 107.5K



Synopsis:

The Royal Family are assassinated, leaving Prince Number 3 as the new Emperor. Only he’s out on a military ship about to go into battle against the aliens who beat the snot out of humanity 1000 years ago. With no way to use faster than light messaging, this story revolves around El Princeo escaping while lots of people die to ensure his survival.

And the scum sucking traitor who set up the Royal Family dies too.

My Thoughts:

Unfortunately, this book could have been at least 25% shorter, if not more, if the author hadn’t felt the need to walk us through every excruciating step of the various space battles. For example, when Enemy Fleet #1 fires 100 missiles at Good Guy Fleet #2, we follow all 100 missiles to the bitter end. 50 get wiped out by 40 Good Guy Fleet anti-missiles. 20 are fooled by countermeasures and speed off into deep space. 10 are destroyed by close point defenses and then the final 10 blow up ships. (So kids, when a daddy missile and a mommy ship get together that’s how you get Space Debris. If you have any questions, go talk to your parents, ok?) And then there was simply over-explanation of every maneuver, every change in speed or gravity, blah, blah blah. I started skipping whole PAGES.

Then there was the sex scene. Any book that has a sex scene(s) I’m going to ding at least half a star for. But for the love of writing, if you’re going to do something, do it well! This scene felt like the thoughts of a 16 year old imagining what sex must be like. If you can’t write scenes like this (because you’re not a pornographer or filthy smut writer) then don’t include it at all. How hard is it to understand that? Gaaaaahhhh!

I called the first book “decent”. This one descended into low mediocre territory. I’ll be reading the third book but if it doesn’t sharply improve I’ll be abandong the series. I’ve got close to 100 books on my kindle and 250 (those do include the 70+ One Piece manga, but still) in my TBR pile in calibre, so I’m not hurting for books. I am working on dnf’ing series much sooner than I have in the past.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Pandora Paradox (Omega Force #12) ★★✬☆☆

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: Pandora Paradox
Series: Omega Force #12
Author: Joshua Dalzelle
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 247
Words: 82K



Synopsis:

From the Publisher

It started with a revolution nobody had even realized occurred…

Its cruelty sparked a rebellion that everyone refused to admit existed…

Now, the Machine—a terrifying and relentless enemy—reigns supreme in the galaxy, and the real fight is just beginning.

Omega Force keenly feels the weight of responsibility for the Machine’s arrival in the quadrant, but even with the resources of the Blazing Sun organized crime syndicate backing them, there’s only so much the small mercenary crew can do against the malevolent AI that has already usurped control of most of the government.

With the Machine now firmly in control of the ConFed’s military, they are out of time and out of options. Captain Jason Burke knows that along with the Machine, something else came back from the outer regions… something he’s kept a secret from everybody, even his own crew. He knows that he likely has the power to stop the Machine in its tracks, but it means unleashing an equally uncontrollable force. As he struggles to know what the right thing to do is, he can’t help but fear that the cure could very well be worse than the disease.

My Thoughts:

I haven’t got much to say. This book was mediocre and has made me realize that Dalzelle and I need to part ways. Not because of any big issues but simply because I don’t feel his skills as a writer are good enough to keep on giving him chance after chance. I started reading him back in ’15 with Warship, the start of his Black Fleet trilogy. It was pretty good and I enjoyed the whole thing. Sadly, the sequels ended up relying on the main character from the first trilogy because they were lifeless.

What does that have to do with his Omega Force series? Well, I started that in ’16 with Omega Rising and here we are 12 books and almost 6 years later and his skill level still appears to be the same to me. I don’t mind if an author starts off rough. Go read Elantris or Mistborn by Sanderson or Monster Hunter International by Correia to see how some authors started out. Starting out as an author is rough work and with reviewers like me it’s even harder. But I expect improvement as an author continues their craft. If they have peaked at their first book or three and then plateau, that is not good enough for me. If you read 10-12 books a year then Dalzelle might just fit your needs. Just like any old pair of black cargo pants are going to work for me when I go to work. I don’t expect them to make me look like a buff sex god, I just want them to protect my legs from briars and thorns and to hold my phone and stuff. But I expect something VERY different if I put on my suit. I have reached the stage in my life when good enough is only good enough for a few books, not long term.

Therefore this is the last Dalzelle book I’ll be reading. I hope I can remember this when he puts out another book or series and I’m tempted to “give him another chance”. No more chances, this stuff is just not good enough anymore.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Quarantine ★★☆☆☆

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: Quarantine
Series: ———-
Author: Greg Egan
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 224
Words: 80K



Synopsis:

Mr Detective-san gets hired to find out why someone kidnapped a woman from an insane asylum. She’s practically a vegetable with no rich relatives, so the police have let it slide.

This all takes place X number of years after a barrier went up in space cutting humanity off from ever reaching the stars. No one knows how or why the barrier exists but it is enough that it does.

In the process of finding Vegetable Girl, Detective-san falls in with a bunch of scyenzetists who believe that aliens put up the barrier to keep the Human Gaze from making the universe into one universe instead of a multiverse where anything is possible.

Detective-san has to do something or other, as to the infinite multitude of Detective-san’s and he gets it done. Only he’s not sure if he got it done or not. But it doesn’t matter because if there really are infinite hims, then at least one of them did it and so the Universe is saved the from the evil Human Gaze (no kidding).

My Thoughts:

First off, despite my snarky “Synopis”, this was not badly written or even thought out. The problem I had with it was just how juvenile it was. By that I mean this is the kind of story that I and my friends would have batted around as teenagers. Nothing wrong with that at all, except that I’m not a teenager now and Egan wasn’t a teenager when he wrote this.

The story ends up ultimately being pointless and whole basic premise rests on there being no God. The whole IDEA that humanity locks reality into one path as they view it but that other beings might not view things the same way, at its core denies that there is a God who views everything and that reality springs from God Himself.

The other issue was how “serious” Egan treats the idea of the multi-verse. I think the multi-verse is a great idea and should be played around with. What I don’t think is that it should be given serious consideration.

Overall, I just didn’t want to like this book and Egan didn’t do one thing to change my mind about it. This is the first Egan book I’ve read and it will definitely be the last. If you’ve read him before and like him, have at him. If you’re into trying out some older but not classic SF, this might fit the bill. Written in the 90’s, it would fit right in with such tv shows as the X-Files and Sliders. At least I enjoyed those.

I chose this cover from Librarything because all of the other ones were piss-poor pathetic stinkos. Even free Gutenberg books have better covers than most of the ones I saw in English.

Rating: 2 out of 5.