Monday, February 27, 2017

An Early, But A Goodie

Very Good, Jeeves! (Jeeves, #4)Very Good, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the earlier Jeeves & Wooster, Very Good, Jeeves sees Wodehouse with some matured characters, but a plot that is still taking baby steps.

If memory serves (and it seldom does, so take that with a necessary grain of salt!), the first few "Jeeves" books Wodehouse penned were written as short stories. This one definitely is and I'm not a huge fan. Or perhaps I should say that I prefer the full length novellas of later books. These shorts felt like they were just getting off the ground only to suddenly land. The books wherein Jeeves and Wooster get to flap their wings for the length of a novel are much more satisfying. Short though they may be, almost all of these stories pack a solid comedic punch.

While the stories change faces over the course of nearly a dozen shorts, the faces of the characters stay mostly the same, thus retaining a certain sense of continuity. Bertie's "friends" and/or old school chums Tuppy Glossop and Bingo Little pop up occasionally. That spunky bird Bobbie Wickham sticks her nose in now and then to make Bertie's life more taxing. His mostly-beloved Aunt Dahlia likewise prods poor Bertie from time to time to make sure he's not idle, much to the delight of us readers.

The collection includes:

"Jeeves and the Impending Doom"

"The Inferiority Complex of Old Sippy"

"Jeeves and the Yule-tide Spirit"

"Jeeves and the Song of Songs"

"Episode of the Dog McIntosh" (US edition: "Jeeves and the Dog McIntosh")

"The Spot of Art" (US edition: "Jeeves and the Spot of Art")

"Jeeves and the Kid Clementina"

"The Love That Purifies" (US edition: "Jeeves and the Love That Purifies")

"Jeeves and the Old School Chum"

"Indian Summer of an Uncle" (US edition: "The Indian Summer of an Uncle")

"The Ordeal of Young Tuppy"

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Bill Bryson's African Diary

Bill Bryson's African DiaryBill Bryson's African Diary by Bill Bryson
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All the Bryson goodness you've come to know and love at half the calories!

Actually, it's more like a 10th the size. In fact, the worst part about Bill Bryson's African Diary is its shortness. This slim volume is more about awareness and philanthropy rather than a literary or journalistic endeavor for its own sake.

Bryson heads to Kenya to check out CARE International's charitable works. Times are tough there. Clean drinking water is at a premium. There's some slight heart-string pulling, but it's not Sally Struthers sappy. Just the right amount of compassion.

Tidbits of Bryson's trademark humor are wedged in between the descriptions of the ravaged slums and gorgeous beaches. His style and low-key flair are present in small quantities. This would be perfect for the Bryson noob who wanted to test the waters before diving into the deep end of his more chunky books.

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Sunday, February 26, 2017


FirestarterFirestarter by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When some cash-poor college students volunteer for an experiment, they have no idea of the Pandora's Box they are about to unleash. Years later, one of them, Andy McGee, is on the run from The Shop, with his daughter, Charlie. Can Andy and Charlie evade The Shop before their world goes up in flames?

First off, for years now, I cannot read the title without hearing the Prodigy song of the same name. Maybe he'll follow this one up with a book called Fuel my Fire or Smack My Bitch Up one of these days to continue along the same lines.

Firestarter is one of those Stephen King books you don't hear all that much about. A lot of people only know of it because of the movie starring Drew Barrymore in the 1980s. Well, more people should know about it because it's a corking good read.

A 1960s experiment gave Andy McGee and his wife psychic powers. It also altered their DNA enough to produce Charlie, their immensely powerful psychic daughter, whose abilities include pyrokinesis, hence the title.

For a good portion of the book, the suspense comes from Andy trying to stay one step ahead of The Shop. The rest of it is the two McGees trying to escape The Shop's clutches. The Shop, and John Rainbird, make fantastic villains because they aren't nearly as far outside the realm of possibility as evil cars and spider-clowns.

Like a lot of Stephen King books, the relationships between the characters keep the story going. John Rainbird proved to be more than the scene-chewing villain I originally pegged him as. Unlike the protagonists in Doctor Sleep, I feared for Charlie and Andy almost constantly.

I'd forgotten how brutal King was sometimes in his older books. There are some parts of this one I'll remember for a long time. Maybe Stephen King will revisit a character or two from this book before he goes to the clearing at the end of the path, maybe as part of a Dark Tower story.

As I said before, this is a very underrated King book. I don't really have anything bad to say about it. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Taken by the Tycoon

Normandie Alleman
Stormy Night Publications
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars


He reminds me of the men who grace the walls of stores where my daughter shops. Men with rippling abs and sinewy ropes of muscles. Men intended for younger women.

I never expected him to notice me. Imagine my surprise when he cornered me in the locker room, pressed his incredible body against mine, and forced me to acknowledge a desire more powerful than anything I’d experienced before.

Now that he has introduced me to the pleasures of being dominated, he wants to possess me completely. But how can I risk my heart, when I know his affection will never last?

My Review

After years in a boring, loveless marriage, Violet Weeks is now ready to meet someone new. She sets eyes on Stuart Swearingen, a man who is loaded, gorgeous, and knows exactly what he wants in a woman.

Will Violet’s hang-ups about being ten years older than Stuart end their relationship before it even starts?

If you’re looking for a romance full of sexual discovery, heat, and a little kink, this may be the perfect short story for you.

Though the story was entertaining and sexy, I was annoyed with Violet’s preoccupation with her age and what her peers thought. She was fit, attractive, and desired by a younger man. It’s not as if he was her child’s age.

As grandma would say, “never look a gift horse in the mouth.”

There were lots of steamy sex scenes and while I mostly enjoyed Violet’s and Stuart’s encounters, I found them pretty tame. I liked Violet’s teenage daughter, Margaret. (Does anyone really name their kids Margaret anymore?)

I wanted moar kink!

I had to go and read a porny Powerone story just to finish off what this one started.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis

Over the years, fantasy has splintered into various sub-genres, urban fantasy, sword and sorcery, paranormal, and medieval. Stories involving magically enabled American who enters a magical fantasy world to save the day are abundant, some very good, others less so. Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis is a fun read that hits all of the high notes, while maintaining some restraint in the young hero's use of magic and showing a learning curve with respect to other medieval skills While we as readers want to see magic, it can overwhelm a story. Indeed, immediate super powers in all things medieval also detracts. Unless a god endows a character with super powers, it can be hard to believe that a teen from California ends up in magical land and immediately can kill with a sword against trained warriors. Thankfully Lewis has a refined pen. Despite horse riding lessons in Los Angeles, Ethan is not automatically a great horseman. Her young hero wins the day with courage, smarts and using his nascent magical skills of talking to ghosts. He also gets help from others. It's a winning combination.

Ethan Makkai lives in California, a freshman in high school, believes his mother Caitrionai is overprotective. He knows that his ability to talk to ghosts is unusual but wants to be his own person. On his birthday, he escapes his tight apartment only to be attacked by the school bully, who he bests, but his triumph is short-lived, as magical invaders from Tara, Caitrionai homeland, attack him on the streets and kidnap her His savior, a Captain Bartlett takes him back to Tara.

Lewis shows a deft hand with world building. Tara is composed of eight lands and multiple different inhabitants. When Ethan arrives in Landover, his ancestral realm, he is eager to go after his mother, but General Niles, the war leader is reluctant to let him go. Ethan is the heir and must present himself to the other kings to prove his power.

Ethan cannot wait and escapes with Lily Niles and his cousin Christian to find his mother, who is being held by the Ravens, shape shifters, who have aligned with the evil imprisoned sorcerer Sawney Bean. It seems that Bean believes he can use Caitrionai to free himself from his prison and to power a spell of potent evil. Ethan later teams up with Runyun Cooper, his unknown father, who knows the way to Sawney Bean's prison.

But on the way the questers have to escape the Glatisant, a huge monstrous beast, convince some bothersome wood sprites to let them go, escape from the muscular Fomorian king and elude the wild milcai. There is little down time in this engaging novel. As the story progresses, we see Lily form a bond with Ethan that makes her magic grow more powerful, and Ethan learns to use his ability to talk to ghosts. But Ethan also grows up.

Sawney Bean has powerful magic at his call and an army of the undead to fight for him. Can Ethan defeat him. In the coming confrontation with Sawney Bean, a traitor will be revealed and Ethan will have to put on the line his ability to talk to ghosts to prove he is the rightful heir. This young adult novel  packed in enough adventure and action to entice this reader. Join the quest.

Civil War II

Civil War IICivil War II by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A massive threat appeared in New York,
but the superheroes were warned about it by the Inhumans and were ready to defeat it.
During the celebratory after party everyone wants to know how the Inhumans knew the threat was coming...
and they told them.
A new Inhuman named Ulysses can see the future and it can change everything.

Civil War II really wasn't good. I'm currently interested in all things about the Inhumans so I was excited to see they were taking a central role, but they really didn't. Ulysses could have been from any group of super powered individuals and it wouldn't have made a difference, although I'm sure this put the spotlight on the Inhuman characters more. Not sure that was a good thing.

So the conflict centers around Captain Marvel and Iron Man, but in truth it was largely about a type of profiling. Ulysses visions showed a future, but is it ok to arrest someone for something they haven't done. Captain Marvel believed Ulysses visions were absolutely true and started arresting and detaining people before they could commit crimes. Iron Man wasn't sure and honestly his side of the argument was always a bit confusing. I don't really know outside of an early major incident why Tony Stark was fighting the use of the visions.

In the end Civil War II was an undeveloped excuse for the heroes to fight each other.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Six Wakes By: Mur Lafferty

Six WakesSix Wakes by Mur Lafferty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

more like a 3 and a half but hey! round up.

A totally fun sci fi mystery. The world Mur Lafferty built honestly held more appeal to me than the mystery, which fell into place for me earlier than I would have liked, BUT!! still..a majorly fun, pretty fast read.

I kind of, sort of hope there is a future return to this world, although it doesn't really leave room for a sequel, it doesn't close the door on it either, (weird statement there, but true)

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The Cold Eye (The Devil's West #2) By: Laura Anne Gilman

The Cold Eye (The Devil's West, #2)The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I find it weird that when I was younger I didn't like western tales or the genre at ALL. But the older I get, I guess I have learned to broaden my horizons.

The Cold Eye is the second in the Devil's West series, it is a exceptionally well written story that straddles a fantasy quest and a western perfectly, not the easiest task in the world.

Terrific world, characters you care for, and the best thing of all, a story that you want to keep reading.

go buy this series.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

The Men Who United the States

The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, IndivisibleThe Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible by Simon Winchester
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the most boring Simon Winchester book I've ever read and yet I still really enjoyed it! The man just has a way with history that few other historians can replicate. He's the Dr. Frankenstein of history. He enlivens it. He even embiggens it!

Reading the title The Men Who United the States, I assumed I was in for the usual Revolutionary War book. I expected Washington, Adams and Jefferson, and yes it does begin with them (just Washington and Jefferson though...poor Adams). Then it slides into Lewis & Clark, and from there we're off! Surveying of the U.S., the Oregon Trail, and relations with the natives bridge the gap until we get to the railroad and telegraph.

At this point I finally read the subtitle America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible and realized my earlier error. This book is about the people and innovations that coalesced the nation. It does a damn fine job of bringing it all together!

Dependent on your interest in each subject, some parts of the book may lag or entice you more than others. It felt like Winchester balanced his page-count well for each topic. Eventually the reader passes through the day of the car, electricity, airplane, telephone, radio, and television, right up to the internet. It's not chronologically linear from start to finish. Asides abound as they often do with his books. But the flash points and eureka moments of U.S. history are all in a row.

There were a few passages off of Winchester's pen that take license, say with imagined history or off-the-cuff theories. These passages are brief, often no more than one-liners probably meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek. They didn't bother me much, but they'd probably bother a scholar. Then again, why would a scholar be reading this?

So, why only three stars? The subject matter on the whole lacks the tension of Winchester's past books. Prior, he'd picked material that might've made a good episode for Ripley's Believe It Or Not. This stuff, while important and interesting in its own way, lacks much wonder, mystery or excitement.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017


RunRun by Douglas E. Winter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Burdon Lane works for a legal gun dealer who also dabbles in some illcit side deals. When a gun deal goes south and a political figure winds up assassinated, Burdon's friends turn on him and he goes on the run. But who can he trust?

During our third booze-soaked meeting, Kemper gave me two books: Seveneves and this one.

The book started slow. The first 35% was setup, introducing all the players and getting them into position. The remaining 65% was an orgy of violence and betrayal.

Run could have easily been a no-brain thriller but raises a lot of questions on race, identity, and gun violence. Burdon Lane struggles with who he is over the course of the novel. His feelings over the deaths and betrayals set him apart from other anti-heroes, making him more than the Parker ripoff I thought he might wind up being.

While Douglas E. Winter writes great action, the relationship between Burdon and Jinx was my favorite part of the book. Jinx could have easily been a stereotype gang member but wound up being one of the better written characters in the tale.

The never-ending betrayals and brutal violence wore on me after a while. Still, I loved the showdown at the end. The aftermath was a little soft, though.

That's about all I have to say. Run is better experienced than read about anyway. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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