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The Vor Game

The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold

The further adventures of Miles, after graduating from the Academy.
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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

The second Harry Potter book.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Back to the beginning! First picked up this series lo these many years ago, where I could only go out the next day and buy the next two books after this one. . . .

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Urban fantasy for gun nuts: hunting monsters for fun and profit.

Monster Hunter International

Baen, 2009, 457 pages

Five days after Owen Zastava Pitt pushed his insufferable boss out of a 14th story window, he woke up in the hospital with a scarred face, an unbelievable memory, and a job offer.

It turns out that monsters are real. All the things from myth, legend, and B-movies are out there, waiting in the shadows. Officially secret, some of them are evil, and some are just hungry. On the other side are the people who kill monsters for a living. Monster Hunter International is the premier eradication company in the business. And now Owen is their newest recruit.

It's actually a pretty sweet gig, except for one little problem. An ancient entity known as the Cursed One has returned to settle a centuries-old vendetta. Should the Cursed One succeed, it means the end of the world, and MHI is the only thing standing in his way.

With the clock ticking towards Armageddon, Owen finds himself trapped between legions of undead minions, belligerent federal agents, a cryptic ghost who has taken up residence inside his head, and the cursed family of the woman he loves. Business is good.... Welcome to Monster Hunter International.

Harry Dresden, with less magic, more guns, and lots of bitching about the government.

Also by Larry Correia: My reviews of Hard Magic, Spellbound, and Warbound.

My complete list of book reviews.

The Beast of the Rails

Girl Genius: The Second Journey of Agatha Heterodyne Volume 1: The Beast of the Rails by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio

Agatha gets on a train!  Spoilers ahead for the prior books.  Though it does begin with a sharper delineation of before and after than the ones just before it -- on the other hand, the tale clearly continues after.

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Today, twenty-one years after his death, Richard Nixon is still a polarizing figure. People either seem to think he was a great man tragically undone by corrupt subordinates that he was too loyal to, or they think that he was the most evil Machiavellian political figure of the 20th century. Right from the beginning of One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, author Tim Weiner makes no secret of which camp he falls in. Weiner defends his strong contempt for the 37th President of the United States, making the argument that Nixon tried to place himself above the law, much like a king, rather than the leader of a nation of laws. He goes farther however in suggesting that Nixon not only saw himself as above the law, but that he was also a drunk, paranoid and (despite Nixon's vocal denial of this) a crook.


The problem for those seeking to defend Nixon from these assertions is that, as Weiner points out, many of these claims are supported by statements that come from Nixon's own mouth. Weiner quotes from the recently released Nixon tapes to show that his subject was often petty, vindictive and branded every critic as his mortal enemy. He also relies heavily on an oral history of the State Department, as well as memoirs from some of the contemporary players, and here he is perhaps more slanted in his selection of sources unfriendly to Nixon.

There are some new revelations in the book, or if not new, then at least subjects not often discussed about Nixon. For example, Weiner relies on quotations from recordings to show that Nixon and his staff were aware that the FBI's Mark Felt was the person passing leaked information to the Washington Post (Woodward and Bernstein's "Deep Throat"). He reveals an astonishing story of how the Joint Chiefs of Staff were leaking information from the President's office and how and why Nixon decided to cover the incident up. There are also incredible recordings of conversations between Henry Kissinger and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in which the participants claim that Nixon was too drunk to deal with a looming crisis in the Middle East that had the potential to lead to World War III. These are amazing claims and yet Weiner cites credible sources for each.

There is much about the Nixon presidency that is difficult, if not impossible, to defend, and Weiner writes in detail about these topics. They include Nixon's sabotage of the peace talks taking place at the end of the Johnson administration, the bombing of neutral Cambodia, the intense bombing of civilian targets in Hanoi, efforts to falsely claim that the Watergate burglary was a CIA operation in an attempt to forestall an FBI investigation, the selling of Ambassador positions to campaign contributors, the firing of Justice Department officials who refused to act unethically, among others.

At the beginning of the book, it is easy to imagine that Weiner is just another Nixon hater with a partisan agenda. By the end however, it becomes apparent that Nixon has much to answer for, and that what at first appears to be an author's bias is more likely a strong sense of outrage over one of American history's greatest assaults on the rule of law, and his passion to see that this type of history never repeats itself.

The Fire in Fiction

The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maass

A how-to-write book.  A rare one:  intended for the people who write novels already.  Like, indeed, his Writing the Breakout Novel, which perhaps you should read first.
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Stoner, by John Williams

A finely wrought tale of mediocrity and disappointment.


Vintage, 1965, 288 pages

William Stoner is born at the end of the 19th century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar's life, far different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a "proper" family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude.

John Williams's luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.

What "Mrs. Dalloway" might have been if written by a man.

My complete list of book reviews.

Writing Down the Bones

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

A how-to-write book.

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Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

The original.  Accept no substitutes!
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Book Review: A Novena for Murder

Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: A Novena for Murder
One murder, much less two, on campus is more than enough for Sister Mary Helen.  With the aid of a novena, foremost, and other Sisters, Sister Mary Helen tries to solve both cases.  This intriguing mystery also extols Catholic virtues.

Of Enemies and Endings

Of Enemies and Endings by Shelby Bach

The conclusion of the Ever After series.

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The White Death

The White Death: A History of Tuberculosis by Thomas Dormandy

This is not light reading.  Its discussion only briefly touches on pre-modern Europe, but there's plenty in America and modern Europe to keep it grim.

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Jumper, by Stephen Gould

A teenager with teleportation acts like a real person instead of a comic book character.


Tor, 1992, 344 pages

What if you could go anywhere in the world, in the blink of an eye? Where would you go? What would you do

Davy can teleport. To survive, Davy must learn to use and control his power in a world that is more violent and complex than he ever imagined. But mere survival is not enough for him. Davy wants to find others like himself, others who can Jump.

It's not a superhero novel, but it's about super powers.

My complete list of book reviews.


Justice by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross

A superhero story in twelve issues, or three volumes.  About the Justice League.
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Books Read June 2015 (Books 56-62)

Below is a summary of my June reading with links to longer reviews in my journal.

Book 56: The Cold Tap by Tom Beckerlegge, 2015. 229 pages. Quirky detective tale with bathing theme. Review here.

Book 57: From the Cradle (DI Patrick Lennon #1) by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards, 2014. 399 pages. Engaging new police procedural series. Review here.

Book 58: The Death Season (Wesley Peterson #19) by Kate Ellis, 2015. 385 pages. Latest in this Devon-based police procedural series. Review here.

Book 59: How to be Both by Ali Smith, 2014. 377 pages. Re-read of this novel that won the 2015 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Review here.

Book 60: The Voice of the Violin (Inspector Montalbano #4) by Andrea Camilleri, 1997. Translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli, 2003. 276 pages. Brilliant series of police procedurals set in Sicily. Review here.

Book 61: Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist , 1988. 450 pages. A dark tale of faeries in 1980s New England. Review here.

Book 62: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, 2013. 433 pages. Re-read of complex novel set in Canada and Japan. Review here.
Those who read Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose, expecting the story to marry up with the one told on the AMC television series, will be disappointed. While the television series works a lot of fiction into its story for dramatic effect, author Alexander Rose presents a more accurate story of the real Culper Spy Ring that operated during the American Revolution. However the real Benjamin Tallmadge, Abraham Woodhull and Caleb Brewster are each very interesting and colorful characters in their own right even though they have many dissimilarities with their fictionalized counterparts. The history presented by Rose is even better than its fictionalized small screen version.

Rose writes a well researched and well sourced account of how George Washington utilized a network of covert espionage to his army's advantage during the Revolutionary war. He describes what contemporary conditions were like, the Whig vs. Tory dynamic in colonial America, the obstacles involved in getting a message from an operative to the General, what type of information was useful, the use of 18th century spy tactics such as invisible ink, the economics of espionage, the hazards of wartime travel, kidnappings and prisoner exchanges and generally the fascinating details of how loyalists and patriots, American and British soldiers, all managed to inhabit the New York area in such close proximity, while at war.

For me, the best part of the book was learning about the personalities of many of the principal actors in this drama: the patriotic and the greedy, the brave and the timid, the honest and the slimy, the innovative and the unimaginative, the noble and the vile. Rose's descriptions of Washington, Tallmadge, Woodhull, Brewster, Major John Andre, Robert Townsend, Benedict Arnold, John Simcoe, Anna Strong, Edward Hewlitt and Richard Rogers and others involved in the Revolutionary spy game, were fascinating, especially for how different each person was in reality, compared to his or her fictionalized television portrayal.

Parts of this book can be tedious and pedantic. For example, Rose's description of the code systems used was something that I found dry and difficult to follow. Yet it is a remarkable testament to the depth of the author's research and his ability to understand and explain a complicated subject. One of the other difficulties is that Rose does not tell the story of Washington's spies in a linear or chronological manner and at times this can present some difficulties in following the story. These are minor criticisms of an otherwise excellent account of a fascinating story.

For the reader with an interest in the American Revolution at a level above a mere recounting of what battles were fought and who won, this is a superb storehouse of interesting information. Alexander Rose presents and preserves a history of Revolutionary War espionage while humanizing the story by allowing us to get to know the principal cast. He reminds us that these secret agents were not suave and cool James Bond types, but were men and women possessed of assorted strengths and weaknesses, coping as best they could under trying circumstances. In the process he has produced a very good book.

Bloody Bloody Apple, by Howard Odentz

Apple is a small town like Sunnydale that makes you wonder why the hell anyone would stay there.

Bloody Bloody Apple

Bell Bridge Books, 2014, 204 pages

Apple, Massachusetts is rotten to the core.

Every fall, when the orchards ripen and the leaves begin to die, there are murders. We know it, and we accept it. It's the price we pay for living in Apple. Families mourn, but no one is ever caught. Now, there's a body in the woods, and the cycle is starting again. People bruise easily in Apple.

Finding a murdered and mutilated girl plunges Jackson Gill into the middle of a decades-old horror. For Jackson, the newest murders become personal.

When sick, cryptic predictions prove true, Jackson will have to believe the unthinkable and stop what no one has been able to stop in sixty years.

He has no choice. He lives in Bloody Bloody Apple.

A classic teen popcorn slasher movie in a book.

My complete list of book reviews.

The Little White Horse

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

A children's book about an orphan, Maria Merryweather, sent off into a countryside valley, with her governess and her pet dog.

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Book Review: Jacksonland by Steve Inskeep

Steve Inskeep's new book Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross and a Great American Land Grab tells the story of the intersecting lives of Andrew Jackson and John Ross, and how the historically shameful Indian Removal Act came about. In a book of Goldilocks proportion (not too long, not too short, just right) Inskeep follows the lives of Jackson, of whom we know much about, and Ross, a little known but equally fascinating historic figure. There is much more to the story of the forced removal of Native American who lived in the American southeast than we are told about in history texts. Inskeep gives an interesting account of the nations who lived in this region in the first part of the 19th century prior to their forced removal, most of which one is never told about in standard history fare. The Cherokee Nation, led by John Ross, took steps on their own to assimilate into American culture, lived peaceably among their neighbors, had a comparable system of government and even had a constitution that sounded very similar to the one Andrew Jackson was supposed to follow. In a very engaging style, Inskeep explains how southerners' coveting of Cherokee land (and land belonging to other First Nations) evolved, how greedy land speculators and politicians (Andrew Jackson falling in both categories) sacrificed principle in their unscrupulous land grab, and how John Ross bravely struggled in vain for a peaceful resolution to the problem.

The story is full of fascinating historical figures, many of whom are virtually unknown even to modern history geeks. There are good guys and bad. Besides Ross, Inskeep tells us about many others who sided with the Native Americans in the interests of fairness and justice, even though it was unpopular for them to do so, including clergymen Jeremiah Evarts and Samuel Worcester, closet feminist Catherine Beecher, editor Elias Boudinot, Chief Justice John Marshall and General John Wool. We also see the worst examples of unethical politicians in Jackson, his successor Martin Van Buren and in Georgia Congressman (and later Governor) George Troup as well as unethical land speculators like John Coffee and James Jackson (no relation). There are other interesting and complex contemporaries in this story such as the Cherokee leader Major Ridge and his son John, and the Marquis de Lafayette even makes an interesting appearance in the midst of the story.

Inskeep ably makes the case for how Jackson disregarded his constitutional obligations and how he abandoned his commitment to democracy when it came to Native Americans, as he engaged in a number of despicable practices to ensure that the voices and votes of the Cherokee people were never allowed to be heard or counted. His description of the "Trail of Tears" journey of the displaced Native Americans is not as detailed as told by some other authors, but it nevertheless provides the reader with a strong impression of the hardship they faced and the terrible conditions they were forced to endure.

While Inskeep is obviously passionate about his subject (as is apparent when, in the book's epilogue he describes his visit to the locations where many of the book's events took place), his criticisms of Jackson are not bald opinions, but are supported by contemporary documents that demonstrate Jackson's duplicity and dishonesty. Conversely, the author also fairly acknowledges that Ross and others on the side of the Cherokee had their own imperfections. If the story appears skewed on the side of the Cherokee, Inskeep ably makes the case that this is because history supports this vantage, not because it is the product of the author's bias.

While 2015 is only half over, thus far this is the best work of American history that I have read. The author uncovers much that is previously hidden in histories of the Age of Jackson and does so in a manner that makes for a real page turner. I highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in US history, in US antebellum history or in the history of America's First Nations.

On Looking Into the Abyss

On Looking Into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society by Gertrude Himmelfarb

A book of interesting essays.

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Making a Living in the Middle Ages

Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain 850-1520 by Christopher Dyer

A broad overview of economics in this period.

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Orphans of the Sky, by Robert A. Heinlein

The earliest generation ship tale. I could not resist using the Baen cover.

Orphans of the Sky

Science Fiction Book Club, 1963, 160 pages

The Jordan Foundation sponsored the Proxima Centauri Expedition in 2119, in attempt to reach the nearer stars of the galaxy. But that was far in the mythic past. The original purpose of the Ship's epic voyage has long been forgotten, and for generations the giant spaceship, lost between the stars, is the only world that the people aboard have known. A strange civilization has evolved, with its own superstitions, savage religion, rigid class structure and mutant outcasts. Then, one young man discovers the truth about the Ship and changes everything, forever....

Early Heinlein is pretty good Heinlein.
Also by Robert A. Heinlein: My reviews of Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Starman Jones, I Will Fear No Evil, and Farnham's Freehold.

My complete list of book reviews.

Astro City

Astro City collections by Kurt Busiek. Volume 5: Local Heroes and Volume 8: Shining Stars

Collections of the comic book. Stand-alones or two issue stories. Of variable quality.

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Hi, bookish! I am fairly new to reviewing books, and I've recently started posting my reviews to my LJ. I thought I might cross-post here as well. I'm also new to Goodreads, and very old to LJ but trying to get back into the habit. I'd love to meet more active members and make friends with similar interests! Thanks! ♥


I chose Division as my 'book published this year' for the 50 Book Challenge


Full Disclosure: I do not personally know this author, but I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a candid review.

When I saw review copies offered, I jumped at the chance to read this book. Besides being a huge sci-fi fan, I write science fiction 'fairytales' myself. While I don't mind the concept of retold classics, I was pleased to see that these were all original tales. For the most part, the stories are extremely well-done, with themes that explore the same human experiences in new, futuristic, but still authentic ways.

Lee S. Hawke is undoubtedly a fine author with compelling ideas and a definite skill for storytelling. Though many endings are left 'open ended', as some reviewers have mentioned, I found them all to have very clear and complete story arcs with very satisfying conclusions. The ideas and themes behind the stories are brilliant and fun. I was moved many times. Hawke has definite wordsmithing skill, and I found myself impressed with certain turns of phrases or the sudden realization that a new story had swapped to present tense, and I hadn't even noticed until mid-way through (I'm usually not overly fond of present tense). The characters themselves were all unique, although I did find that the author's voice/pet habits rang through heavily enough to dilute that in places: starting so many sentences with 'but' or 'and' (a habit I share and am maybe over conscious about), fragments, over-saturation of similes & metaphors, etc.

I very much loved the tales and will be watching this author in the future! However, I hope she avails herself of a quality editor for future books. My issues are more with the editing than with the stories, because the stories are great! However, for grammar enthusiasts like myself, there are enough issues that it was consistently pulling me out of the stories. There are a lot of mis-used/missing commas, which kept me stumbling even though the stories themselves were propelling me forward. As mentioned, the writer ticks above also started really glaring for me. Especially the simile/metaphor issue! A well-done simile or metaphor is so subtle as to not even be noticed, unless it stands out due to extreme awesome. The first time or two that they jumped out, it was because of just that. “Wow, what an interesting way to put it!” But the more (and more, and more) that they started cropping up, they really went from shining to glaring to annoying. Similes (and metaphors) are like salt – used judiciously, they make nearly everything better, but use far too much and the effect is overbearingly obvious and leaves a bad taste.

I would have happily rated it much higher had the editing been better. I'd added the author to my 'spec fic writers to watch' list and undoubtedly look forward to reading more. However, it was a heavy enough issue that I actually went looking for info on the editors and publisher (who has NO info on their website as to who they are). If this is self-published, it's extremely well-done storytelling, and I don't want to diminish that at all, but a professional editor could have easily bumped it from 3 to 5 stars.

The Rise of Universities

The Rise of Universities by Charles Homer Haskins

A brief but detailed book, on the original universities.  In medieval times.

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Idylls and Rambles

Idylls and Rambles: Lighter Christian Essays by James V. Schall

A book of light essays, sometimes occasional.
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Book Review: Reagan - The Life

H. W. Brands is nothing if not thorough, and in Reagan: The Life, he brings the same honest professionalism, meticulous research and significant detail in chronicling the life of the 40th President that he did previously in his wonderful biographies of Andrew Jackson, both Roosevelts and Ulysses Grant. Brands ably makes the case that Reagan was not what he is often held out to be: an iconic conservative, but rather a pragmatic one. As Reagan once said to his Chief of Staff James Baker, "I'd rather get 80% of what I want, than go over the cliff with my flags flying." Brands makes the case for showing how Reagan's focus on his main goals are what had made his legacy so timeless.

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Although the book is a cradle to grave account of Reagan's life, most of its focus is on Reagan's two terms in the White House. There was a lot going on during that time, and Brands recalls and recounts almost all of it with accuracy and a keen analysis. This includes everything from his fiscal policy (dubbed Reaganomics by many), the assassination attempt in March of 1981, the air traffic controllers strike, the invasion of Grenada, Reagan's visit to the Bitburg cemetery, the Challenger tragedy, the shelling of Libya and his Supreme Court appointments. Some aspects of Reagan's administration are given greater focus and scrutiny, most notably nuclear arms reduction negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev and the Iran-Contra affair. Brands' accounting of these chapters in the Reagan Presidency are fascinating. The story of the evolution of the relationship between Reagan and Gorbachev is especially well told. The dynamic between these two leaders of the great powers is extremely interesting.

Brands is neither obsequious nor insolent in his analysis of Reagan's personality and presidency. He gives Reagan credit when it is due, and also notes Reagan's failings, weaknesses and management flaws. He addresses Reagan's determination, ambition, timing, luck, and his successes and failures. For example, Brands addresses Reagan's successes in reducing taxes, in restoring public confidence, and in bringing about the diminishing of the influence of communism, as well as his failures in bringing about rapid growth in debt and deficits, his unwillingness to fire those who were deserving of it, and his lack of oversight over rogue subordinates.

Brands ably describes Reagan's declining years in his post presidency, including Reagan's candid declaration of his diagnosis of Alzheimer's and the pitiful decline which the disease brought about in the "Great Communicator". As with all of his historical biographies, Brands is most eloquent in his summary of Reagan's life and legacy and his assessment of Reagan's career, making a strong case as to where prevailing views have it right and where they have it wrong.

Brands' strengths are in his detail (as one might expect from a 737 page tome) and in his objectivity. The book is neither Reagan worship nor Reagan bashing. Brands makes an interesting and compelling case for his opinions on Reagan's life, many of which differ from the standard image many people have of the Gipper. Whether one agrees or disagrees with his conclusions, it is Brands' intelligent and articulate account and assessment of this fascinating life that makes this an excellent work.
The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy by Odile Redon, Françoise Sabban, Silvano Serventi, and Edward Schneider

This book covers the basics of medieval eating, and then plunges into the recipes.  They start with the text they were working with, comment on decyphering it and what substitutes, if any, they had to use, and then they describe it as a modern recipe.  (A lot more detailed.)  I can't tell you how good they are, because I got it as a reference for a character who's a cook in a medieval-ish setting.  Recipes are, unsurprisingly, weighted toward the wealthy.

Personnel of Fairyland

Personnel of Fairyland by Katharine Mary Briggs

A book written so that the children of her day could hear more variety in their folklore, and rather more native folklore than foreign.

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A light-hearted series of children's books by Ursula Vernon about the adventures of Danny Dragonbreath, a dragon. Along with his iguana and nerd friend Wendell. Opening usually with a dream or daydream by Danny before he gets plummeted in the problems of real life. Of course, for him, that includes problems breathing fire. A wide variety of menaces and folklore. Fun, though definitely children's books.  In a semi-graphic, semi-text way -- you do have to read the stuff in the illustrations.

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Swords of Waar, by Nathan Long

Jane's back on Waar, buckling the swash.

Swords of Waar

Night Shade Books, 2012, 320 pages

Jane Carver, a hell-raising, redheaded biker chick from Coral Gables, Florida, had found a new life and love on Waar, a savage planet of fearsome creatures and swashbuckling warriors. Until the planet’s high priests sent her back to Earth against her will. But nobody keeps Jane from her man, even if he happens to be a purple-skinned alien nobleman. Against all odds, she returns to Waar, only to find herself accused of kidnapping the Emperor’s beautiful daughter. Allying herself with a band of notorious sky-pirates, Jane sets out to clear her name and rescue the princess, but that means uncovering the secret origins of the Gods of Waar and picking a fight with the Wargod himself. Good thing Jane is always up for a scrap....

Swords of Waar is the wildly entertaining sequel to Jane Carver of Waar, and continues the raucous adventures of science fiction’s newest and most bad ass space heroine.

The continuing adventures of a foul-mouthed biker chick on a planet that is totally not Barsoom.

My complete list of book reviews.

Sidewalk Flowers

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson

A light little wordless picture book.
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Faith, by John Love

Moby Dick in space - or, a Book About Spaceship Battles with Significantly Capitalized Words.


Night Shade Books, 2012, 373 pages

FAITH is the name humanity has given to the unknown, seemingly invincible alien ship that has begun to harass the newly emergent Commonwealth. 300 years earlier, the same ship destroyed the Sakhran Empire, allowing the Commonwealth to expand its sphere of influence. But now Faith has returned.

THE SHIP is as devastating as before, and its attacks leave some Commonwealth solar systems in chaos. Eventually it reaches Sakhra, now an important Commonwealth possession, and it seems like history is about to repeat itself. But this time, something is waiting: an Outsider, one of the Commonwealth's ultimate warships.

OUTSIDERS are almost as alien as Faith - instruments of the Commonwealth, outside all normal command structures. Slender silver ships, full of functionality: drives and weapons and sentience cores, bionics and electronics, packed to almost dwarf-star density. And crewed by people of unusual abilities, often sociopaths or psychopaths. Outsiders were conceived in back alleys, built and launched in secret, and commissioned without ceremony.

FAITH continues to destroy the Commonwealth's regular spacecraft and planetary defenses. With each new engagement, the Kafkaesque enemy reveals a new set of abilities.

ONE SYSTEM away from Earth, the Outsider ship Charles Manson makes a stand. Commander Foord waits with his crew of miscreants and sociopaths, hoping to accomplish what no other human has been able to do- TO DESTROY FAITH.

The ship is called the Charles Manson. The enemy ship is called Faith. It's pretty strange.

My complete list of book reviews.

Castle Perilous

Castle Perilous and Castle for Rent by John DeChancie

The first two books in a madcap, frothy light series.

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The Killer Next Door, by Alex Marwood

Everyone wants to mind their own business until the serial killer gets sloppy.

The Killer Next Door

Penguin Books, 2014, 400 pages

Everyone who lives at 23 Beulah Grove has a secret. If they didn't, they wouldn't be renting rooms in a dodgy old building for cash - no credit check, no lease. It's the kind of place you end up when you you've run out of other options.The six residents mostly keep to themselves, but one unbearably hot summer night, a terrible accident pushes them into an uneasy alliance. What they don't know is that one of them is a killer. He's already chosen his next victim, and he'll do anything to protect his secret.

Runaways, refugees, pensioners and serial killers in the non-posh parts of London.

Also by Alex Marwood: My review of The Wicked Girls.

My complete list of book reviews.

Castle Hangnail

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

I stayed up entirely too late reading this book.

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Why grown men cruise the Sunset Strip in fuzzy purple hats and eyeliner.

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists

Regan Books, 2005, 464 pages

Hidden somewhere, in nearly every major city in the world, is an underground seduction lair. And in these lairs, men trade the most devastatingly effective techniques ever invented to charm women. This is not fiction. These men really exist. They live together in houses known as Projects. And Neil Strauss, the best-selling author, spent two years living among them, using the pseudonym Style to protect his real-life identity.

The result is one of the most explosive and controversial books of the year -- guaranteed to change the lives of men and transform the way women understand the opposite sex forever.

On his journey from AFC (average frustrated chump) to PUA (pick-up artist) to PUG (pick-up guru), Strauss not only shares scores of original seduction techniques but also has unforgettable encounters with the likes of Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Heidi Fleiss, and Courtney Love. And then things really start to get strange -- and passions lead to betrayals lead to violence.

The Game is the story of one man's transformation from frog to prince to prisoner in the most unforgettable book of the year.

Hate the game, don't hate the player... well, actually, the players are kind of shitty too.

My complete list of book reviews.

The Invisible Hook

The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates by Peter T. Leeson

A discussion of pirate practices and why they were sound rational decisions by economical rules.

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The 2015 Romancing the Novel Published Authors Contest, sponsored by Hearts Through History Romance Writers, RWA Chapter #189, was conceived to award excellence in published—especially historical—romance fiction. The contest has opened to a great start and HHRW is now searching for avid readers of romance to read and judge the published novels of the authors who have entered their books and novellas.

The authors’ deadline for submission of their book/s is June 15, 2015.

Novels and novellas will be distributed to reader-judges in late June 2015. The deadline for scoring the entries will be August 31st, 2015. Entries will be in electronic format (PDF, Kindle, or epub). Authors will provide DRM-free digital copies of the entered book/s, which will be given to reader-judges as a gift for their efforts. No print copies will be available.

Scoring: This will be a simple form to be completed for each book entry. Judges will be asked to give a numerical score between 1 (the lowest score) and 10 (the highest score).

Categories to be judged: HHRW is all about history. Therefore, the historical romances have several defined categories.

Historical Romance Categories:
Colonial/Civil War/Western
Post-Victorian/WWII/up to 1960
Historical Inspirational
Time Travel/Historical Paranormal
Historical Young/New Adult
Historical Novella (less than 40,000 words)
Best First Historical Romance Novel

Other Categories:
Romantic Suspense
Paranormal/Fantasy/Futuristic/Time Travel
Young Adult / New Adult
Novella (less than 40,000 words)
Best First Romance Novel

Judging: HHRW is looking for at least four judges for each entry. The decision of the judges will be final. Judge’s Information Form: In order to ensure that judges receive the books they most enjoy reading, HHRW has prepared a form so that each judge has an opportunity to let the Coordinator/s know their preferences.

The Reader-Judge’s form is located here: Romancing the Novel Published Authors Contest 2015-Judge’s Information (http://tinyurl.com/HHRWJudge). If you have questions, please contact me at vp2@heartsthroughhistory.com.

Winners will be informed via email at the close of the contest, after all judges have reported their votes by August 31, 2015. Winners will be publicly announced in Fall 2015.

Leigh Verrill-Rhys, VP HHRW, Romancing the Novel Published Authors Contest Coordinator

Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen

Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen by H. Beam Piper

A classic of alternate worlds. . . we open with the head of the Paratime Patrol contemplating his job, which he is about to hand on.  And then we have the Princess Rylla in the war council where her father and his councillors face a hopeless war.  And then we meet Calvin Morrisson, Pennsylvanian cop, going in with three others to take a murderer.  Except that he's accidentally swept up by a Paratime traveler, and dumped in another world.
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Angles of Attack, by Marko Kloos

The war against the Lankies comes to Earth, and Andrew Grayson once again has a grunt's eye view of the action.

Angles of Attack

47North, 2015, 352 pages

The alien forces known as the Lankies are gathering on the solar system's edge, consolidating their conquest of Mars and setting their sights on Earth. The far-off colony of New Svalbard, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by the Lanky blockade, teeters on the verge of starvation and collapse. The forces of the two Earth alliances have won minor skirmishes but are in danger of losing the war. For battle-weary staff sergeant Andrew Grayson and the ragged forces of the North American Commonwealth, the fight for survival is entering a catastrophic new phase.

Forging an uneasy alliance with their Sino-Russian enemies, the NAC launches a hybrid task force on a long shot: a stealth mission to breach the Lanky blockade and reestablish supply lines with Earth. Plunging into combat against a merciless alien species that outguns, outmaneuvers, and outfights them at every turn, Andrew and his fellow troopers could end up cornered on their home turf, with no way out and no hope for reinforcement. And this time the struggle for humanity's future can end only in either victory or annihilation.

The third book in the series gets the job done, except for ending the story.

Also by Marko Kloos: My reviews of Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure.

My complete list of book reviews.

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

A lightsome whimsical play.  Full of wonderful witty dialog, and tweaks at the literary conventions of his day, and wild coincidences, and two young women who refuse to marry anyone except a man named Ernest.  Great fun.

Novels at Night - book club

I want to extend an invitation to join a new book club.

The idea behind this club is a fun read with as little pressure as possible. We’ll have generous chapter deadlines and a relaxed group discussion post.

The group is called novelsatnight I ask that you please join the group and submit your idea for our first booking.

Once we have all the submissions we’ll vote. Normally it’s pretty easy to find copies of their books for E-Readers or cheap paperbacks. I’m happy to search for the digital copies and post them.

We're just hoping to meet some new people and read good books at our own pace. Hope to see you there and happy reading.

Books Read May 2015 (Books 45-55)

Below is a summary of my May reading with links to longer reviews in my journal.

Book 45: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, 2014. 576 pages. Excellent period drama that takes unexpected direction. Review here.
Book 46: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler, 2015. 368 pages. Family drama. Review here.
Book 47: The Nine Tailors (Lord Peter Wimsey #11) by Dorothy L. Sayers, 1934. 422 pages. Golden Age detective tale with bells. Review here.
Book 48: 666 Park Avenue (666 Park Avenue #1) by Gabriella Pierce, 2011. 320 pages. Witchcraft in NYC high society. Review here.
Book 49: The Pines (Wayward Pines #1) by Blake Crouch, 2012. 309 pages. Twin Peaks inspired thriller.
Book 50: Cold Moon (The Huntress/F.B.I. #3) by Alexandra Sokoloff, 2015. 391 pages. Final book in this engaging series. Reviews for Books 49 and 50.
Book 51: The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog (Amelia Peabody #7) by Elizabeth Peters, 1992. 390 pages. Unabridged Audio (14 hrs, 54 mins). Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. Amelia's husband loses his memory in this Victorian mystery. Review here.
Book 52: The Bees by Laline Paull, 2014. 352 pages. Dystopian fantasy set in honey bee hive. Review here.
Book 53: Sepulchre (Languedoc #2) by Kate Mosse, 2007. 560 pages. Unabridged Audio (20 hrs, 32 mins) Read by Lorelei King. Historical and contemporary mysteries interweave around Tarot. Review here.
Book 54: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, 2010. 393 pages. Moving biography of a woman whose cells have proved immortal. Review here
Book 55: Outline by Rachel Cusk, 2014. 249 pages. Elegantly written novel set in Athens. Review here.

Secret Origins

Secret Origins by Michael C. Bailey

The first book in the Action Figures series

Carrie's parents have divorced, Carrie's mother went to back to her home town (which has been having trouble with rogue robots) and brought Carrie, and Carrie only manages to avoid being late her first day in school by -- flying.  She had been given superpowers by an alien.

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Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane

A U.S. marshal investigates sinister goings on at an island mental hospital for the criminally insane.

Shutter Island

William Morrow, 2003, 325 pages

Summer, 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels has come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane. Along with his partner, Chuck Aule, he sets out to find an escaped patient, a murderess named Rachel Solando, as a hurricane bears down upon them.

But nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. Is he there to find a missing patient? Or has he been sent to look into rumors of Ashecliffe's radical approach to psychiatry; an approach that may include drug experimentation, hideous surgical trials, and lethal countermoves in the shadow war against Soviet brainwashing ...Or is there another, more personal reason why he has come there?

As the investigation deepens, the questions only mount. The closer Teddy and Chuck get to the truth, the more elusive it becomes, and the more they begin to believe that they may never leave Shutter Island because someone is trying to drive them insane ...

Paranoia and hurricanes in a moody period thriller.

My complete list of book reviews.
Some aliens want to destroy the universe, there is a telepathic tree network, chicks with katanas, and, umm, killer robots and stuff...

The Dark Between the Stars

Tor, 2014, 672 pages

Twenty years after the elemental conflict that nearly tore apart the cosmos in The Saga of Seven Suns, a new threat emerges from the darkness. The human race must set aside its own inner conflicts to rebuild their alliance with the Ildiran Empire for the survival of the galaxy.

In Kevin J. Anderson's The Dark Between the Stars, galactic empires clash, elemental beings devastate whole planetary systems, and factions of humanity are pitted against one another. Heroes rise and enemies make their last stands in the climax of an epic tale seven years in the making.

Space opera. It's very space opera-y. Yup, this sure is a space opera.

Also by Kevin J. Anderson: My review of Tau Ceti.

My complete list of book reviews.

Spectrum 21

Spectrum 21 by John Fleskes

An anthology of fantastic art.  Varying styles and subjects (and quality, too, I think.)  Over the various places where it's used, like book covers or in comics.  How it's organized, too, so there's not a thematic progression.

Interesting stuff.  Giving me ideas.

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