Category Archives: Books of 2011

Books of 2011: Last Minute

I read one of those books that you’re never quite sure if it got you put on a watch list or not when you bought it. You know the type–out of control government, someone pushes back, some, um, very practical advice on doing some not very nice things, that sort. Needless to say, it goes towards my count but I’m not going to put it out on the internet for all to see–it’s one of those that makes you a little paranoid about such things.

Hey, my blog, my book, my rules.

I guess tomorrow I can start a new label for the books of 2012!

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Books of 2011: Playing Catch Up with My Slacker Self

Since 2011 is nearly over, I thought I should probably finish listing the books that I’ve read in 2011. I was doing pretty good until October, and then for whatever reason I really slacked off on both reading and keeping track of what I was reading. But here is what I have read (or at least, remember reading) since the last Books of 2011 post.

The Looking Glass series by John Ringo and Doc Taylor, which consists of “Into the Looking Glass,” “Vorpal Blade,” “Manxome Foe,” and “Claws that Catch.” A physicist finds a way to open a trans-dimensional door, aliens invade, a space ship is made out of a submarine, hijinks ensue. For the most part, Dr. Taylor’s hard scifi tendencies are tempered nicely with Ringo’s pulpy violence (and vice versa), though, like many of Ringo’s series, the later books seem to overstay their welcome. I’d rate the first two as solid 9/10’s, the third as 7/10, and the last as maybe a 6/10. You can find it (or most of it, anyway) free from Baen if you have a kindle or other e-reader.

I also read “Storm Front” by Jim Butcher, the first of the Dresden Files, because a friend wanted me to read it. Not being a very big mystery fan, this one was pretty “meh” for me. I am told they pick up in the later books of the series, but I’m not sure I want to. 5/10.

Another was “Ghost Ship,” by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, a Liaden Universe book–more specifically, finally the book that picks off at where “I Dare” ended. A 9 year cliff hanger. I was starting to hate the authors quite a bit, actually. I think this one still focuses too much on Theo and not enough on the rest of Korval–I mean, Miri and Val Con are mere sidestories. Still, it is good to advance the story, and I can’t wait for the next one. Thank goodness they were picked up by Baen, it would be a shame if these authors were put out of print!

Next was Larry Correia and Mike Kupari’s “Dead Six.” Military Fiction, in a world only sightly devolved from our own. I read the “Welcome Back, Mr. Nightcrawler” on The High Road back when, the story that this one came out of. Very similar in some parts, a bit changed in others, I found it pretty entertaining, if not as much so as Larry’s other books (just not as much of a Military Fiction guy, I guess). Written from two character veiwpoints, two guys who don’t like each other, competing and collaborating eventually to accomplish the same end goals. The first half of the plot is a little slow (though still heavy on action), but it picks up. I’ll definitely buy the other ones when they come out, but I just don’t read through them in 12 hours straight like MHI or the Grimnoir books. Speaking of which, the next one is out and I need to read it… Anyway, I’d give it a 7.5/10.

Last, included here just because, I finally finished reading through The Message paraphrase of the Bible. Highly recommended if you are sick of the high vernacular most translations are put in to. It puts the Bible into more common modern language, making it more readable. I wouldn’t recommend it as your only go-to copy, but perfect for refreshing your perspective. The introductions to the books by Eugene Peterson are worth the purchase price alone. 10/10.

I’ve got a few more books in progress, and a huge number on the pile that need to be read–hopefully I’ll do better at reading them than I have been doing the past few months.

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Books of 2011: Prince Roger and the Empire of Man

I am currently operating on a rather large backlog–I re-read Weber and Ringo’s “Empire of Man” series a month and a half ago, and am just now getting around to writing about it. And there are some that go further back than that… can you say “S-L-A-C-K-E-R”?

But anyway, here’s my short review of the series, which currently consists of:

  • March Upcountry
  • March to the Sea
  • March to the Stars
  • We Few

This series is really your standard “Young royal who needs to do a lot of growing up is forced into circumstances where he/she grows up.”  Prince Roger is said royal, and he starts out as a stuck up brat.  He and his Royal Marine bodyguards are on a ship which is sabotaged and they are marooned on a backwater planet, Marduk, which is a mean, jungley place, with critters who have sharp pointy teeth and angry dispositions.  The locals are huge four armed lizard men (well, salamander would probably be a better description, but…) some of whom are recruited by the stranded humans as they fight their way across the planet to the only starport.  Lots of “well, with the technology the locals have available here, we could make this kind of weapon…” takes place, building all the way up into very large caliber revolvers for the Mardukan Calvary.  With said weapons, lots and lotsa blood and carnage are leaked off of the page, as is typical by anything John Ringo is involved in.  Then, in We Few, we get to go back to Earth as Prince Roger and company get to learn what has been happening in their absence. 

So, it’s pretty good, certainly entertaining if you like books about building armies and then smashing them into other armies.  I feel like Prince Roger himself turns a little too badass in the later books, with other characters saying over and over “We’d follow him to HELL!” (not in exactly those words, but it does get old).  I guess I’d prefer it if instead of saying how awesome and unstoppable he is, they’d just get on with the mayhem and destruction–show don’t tell, please.

I rate the series a good solid 7.5/10, and I look forward to see what else may come from this series.

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Books of 2011: Dragaera

You probably thought that I’ve given up reading, haven’t you? Actually, I’ve just been waiting for an opportune moment! to strike! This one was important to me.

Let me ask you: can you tell a who is a Steven Brust fanboi by looking at this picture?

With Vlad Taltos:

Included in The Book of Jhereg: Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla
Included in The Book of Taltos: Taltos and Phoenix
Included in The Book of Athyra: Athyra and Orca
Dragon
Issola
Dzur
Jhegaala
Iorich
Tiassa (the only one not in the picture, as I got it from the library and don’t own it yet)

The Khaavren Romances:

The Phoenix Guards
Five Hundred Years After
The Viscount of Adrilankha, which includes The Paths of the Dead, The Lord of Castle Black, and Sethra Lavode

And The Brokedown Palace standalone

What do I say about some universe that I own nearly all of the books of? How do I sum up something that I enjoy so much and try to make you interested in it? Well, here goes nothing…

Dragaera is a world with two main races, humans, who are actually humans, but called easterners by the dragaerans (because they come from the east), and dragaerans, who call themselves humans, but who the humans call elves (and who come from The Empire. say it with the capital letters). Oh, and one more thing, dragaerans live several thousand years, while easterners are just regular humans. Did any of that make sense? Anyway, as a swashbuckler fantasy, there are swords and magic and Halls of the Gods and much buckle swashing. That’s the setting.

So then in the Vlad Taltos series, we follow an easterner named Vlad Talos, who through a series of foolish moves by his father, is also a citizen of The Empire and a member of one of the Dragaeran houses, of which there are 17, and which are all named after some animal of Dragaera. Specifically, though, Vlad is a member of the only house that cares more about money than appearances, House Jhereg, which is sort of the organized crime syndicate of The Empire. As an easterner, Vlad has learned how to use “witchcraft,” and has a familiar named Loiosh, who is a smartass Jhereg (which are small flying scavenger lizards, not dragons) and as a citizen of The Empire is also able to use dragaeran “sorcery” which is more of the traditional fatasy magic. Vlad is a small time boss in the organization, and on the side is a pretty good assassin. Much hijinks and witty dialogue ensue, etc, etc.

In the Khaavren Romances, we follow a character who is only briefly mentioned  in the Vlad novels, Lord Khaavren, who at the time of the Vlad novels is the Empress’s head of the Guard.  The Khaavren Romances, however, written in the verbose form of Alexandre Dumas, take place somewhere around 1000 years in the past from Vlad, and follow Khaavren’s rise to fame through the fall and rebirth of The Empire during its 17th Phoenix cycle (it’s complicated).  I know that the wordy style can be an acquired taste, but I find it really funny.  These are very swashbuckly, and it’s fun to see some ot the characters you’ve gotten used to from the Vlad series written in a completely different style.

The Brokedown Palace is completely separate story, set in the East during a time of change for the Kingdom of Fenario.  It is really hard to explain.  Just be sure that you read this one after you’ve got some of the other ones under your belt, or else you will miss about a thousand foreshadowings and references.  Many theories abound at when it takes place in relation to the Vlad stories, and how certain other characters are related to Vlad and his acquaintances.

And that brings me right in to one of the best things about Steven Brust’s Dragaera stories.  Everything–and I mean EVERYTHING–is connected and related.  Vlad starts to explain a story in book and decides not to finish, and you wonder what happened, and then three books later he finishes it.  Or a small object mentioned in passing becomes a major plot item many years down the story line.  And it’s all the more amazing considering that the first novel was first published in 1983!  I have no idea how Mr. Brust keeps all the details straight in his head, or even how he keeps them in his head.  And it’s even more amazing on top of that that the stories are written all out of order.

So there you have it, one of my absolute favorites.  I highly recommend that you go out and search them down.

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Book Lists

My lists are just as good as NPR’s (in my entire objective and never inaccurate opinion), and even include concise reviews on why or why not I like a particular book!

Books of 2010

Books of 2011 [in progress]

I’ve got, um… quite a few books that need to be written up (the entire dragaeran universe by Steven Brust is a big one, roughly 30 books), that you can expect within a week maybe. Some of the books on my lists are even the same as the ones on NPR’s, you know, um, just in case that sort of thing is a turn on for you. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

And what is wrong with all you people who haven’t read The Princess Bride?

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Books of 2011: Monster Hunter Vendetta

What can I say–read it last year, but since I just read Alpha, I felt the need to go back and re-read it. It’s almost been a year, after all, and I did read it very fast the last time. I think I read it twice as slowly this time.

I stand by what I said last time about the Monster Hunter Books: “Once again, [Larry] takes all of the horror movie cliches and fantasy fairy tale creatures, mashes them together with a group of badass goofballs who have all of the coolest toys, and purees it with a blender made out of explosives to serve you a piping-hot cocktail of pure awesome.”

If you haven’t read it, what’s your problem?

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Books of 2011: 1636 The Saxony Uprising

I didn’t want to read this book. After the last one, which really made me angry, I was going to stop wasting my time with this endless and frustrating series. But my mother checked it out from the library, and since it was just sitting there…

Anyway, it was much better than 1635 The Eastern Front, mainly because [SPOILER ALERT!} someone finally shoots Axel Oxenstierna. It wasn’t such a hanging ending as the last one, which was nice. I still am not going to go out of my way to read any more of them, though–I feel like I have been abandoned as a casual reader who doesn’t participate in the online/short story aspect of the Ring of Fire universe. Everything about it is becoming a TL:DR situation. I want some resolution, dagnabit!

I award it 8/10, for being better than the last one.

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Books of 2011: Monster Hunter Alpha

I read Larry Correia’s latest MHI book, Monster Hunter Alpha, over the weekend.  We get to see Earl Harbinger away from his teams, in a small Northern Michigan town, dealing with an outbreak of the supernatural.  It was great, though I missed Owen and Milo and Skippy and all the rest.  And dammit now I need the next one to come out. And I think now I need to go back and re-read Vendetta.

9/10, with one dinged off for [redacted, spoiler].

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Books of 2011: The Hot Gate

You may have thought that I’ve forgotten to read, since the last little book review I did was back in May, for Hard Magic.  Rest assured, this is not the case.  It is just that I’ve been reading through a large series an didn’t want to do a separate post for each book. But I finally got a hold of the new book in John Ringo’s Troy Rising series, “The Hot Gate,” from the library, and read it Saturday night (yes, pretty much all night, yes, I’m sometimes pretty stupid when it comes to things like this).  It was pretty meh.  But I sure hope that this so-called trilogy is going have another book, because otherwise this was a very weak offering.  Half a book of lecturing about South American culture clash, a love story (or perhaps a mutual respect story, it isn’t made clear) that is introduced and then dropped without exploration or resolution, a saboteur that is introduced for unexplained reasons and then dropped without exploration or resolution, a massive BATTLE SCENE at the END OF THE BOOK that should be the CLIMAX OF THE STORY that is pretty much… wait for it… introduced and then DROPPED WITHOUT EXPLORATION OR RESOLUTION. 

Everything you want to read about is forced and rushed and incomplete, it hammers on the uninteresting and unnecessary South American “honor” thing for faaaaarrr too long and then suddenly drops it for no apparent reason, and after the brilliance of first book and the good solid military action of the second one,  I am more than slightly disappointed in what I was thinking would be the third book in a trilogy.  Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

My score–a good solid meh/10, to be raised if there is another book or two that get back to good storytelling.

And, look, oh great, the next book in my pile as I wait for the next one in the series I’m trying to read is the next in the 1632 series.  Speaking of things that are unresolved and going in the wrong direction…

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Books of 2011: Hard Magic

Larry Correia’s Book 1 of the Grimnoir Chronicles: Hard Magic

I got it in the mail yesterday afternoon, and finished it at 12:30 last night. Most excellent. Think “Ex-con private eye X-men in the Great Depression,” and you’ll get a general idea on the feel of it. Except these X-men aren’t all angsty teenagers, afraid to use fully-automatic firearms chambered in .30-06. And John Moses Browning is a major character!

I’m not sure if I like it quite as much as Monster Hunter, but that just means that I’m going to rate it at 1.9 bajillion out of 10 rather than 2 bajillion out of 10.

You should go and pick up a copy.

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Books of 2011: Old Testament

I’ve finally finished the Old Testament on my “Read through the Bible in *cough cough* years!” plan. This time through I’m reading “The Message” paraphrase, just for a change of pace. You could say that this post shouldn’t be a “Books of 2011” post, but I figure that this is a good compromise between doing every single book of the Bible and just doing one post for the whole thing (assuming I finish it anytime soon). But I digress…

So what can you say about the Old Testament–this Jewish history written thousands of years ago? It has everything from epic tales of battle to (impressively explicit) love poems–and yet everything in it is a setup for the New Testament. Kind of amazing.

Anyway, it is essential reading for everyone, really. Whether or not you believe in the message of Jesus Christ or not, the fact that everything in our culture (and most others) is built on this foundation makes it something good to have under your belt.

I don’t know how exactly to rate something like this. Hmmm… 39 days and nights out of 40.

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Books of 2011: Tolkien

Haven’t done one of these for a while, but I assure you that I have been reading.  I actually finished these books a couple months ago, but I guess I was lazy and didn’t feel like writing about them.  Actually, I still feel a little lazy, so don’t expect too much.

The Lord of the Rings. We watched the movies, so I had to re-read the books.  Had to.  Started with “The Hobbit,” then progressed through “The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers,” and “The Return of the King.”  What can I say about this granddaddy (or at least granduncle) of modern fantasy epics?  If you haven’t read it, you probably aren’t on the internet to read my blog.

Though maybe a bit slow to modern tastes, it’s good, it’s engrossing, it has amazing world building, and I still can’t get over how they left out the ending in the movies.

I give the four books a collective 9.5/10

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Books of 2011: Catch Up

These things always get ahead of me.  I guess I read faster than I write.

“Cryoburn,” Lois McMaster Bujold
I was very glad to get back to the Miles Vorkosigan Universe.  It was one of the ones that my mom started me reading science fiction on, and made me really love character-driven scifi (as opposed to science-driven, which, don’t get me wrong, is good too).  This one occurs a few years after the events in “Diplomatic Immunity,” with Miles still acting the auditor, a role which I quite for him.  The best part of this one was that my mother bought the hardback, which came with a CD with a digital version.  I could read it on my kindle and she could have the hard copy, no fighting over who gets it first!
I would rate it at 8.5/10

“Starship Troopers,” Robert A. Heinlein
While my former roommate enjoyed reading Classic Literature in the “Old Russian Guy” context, I never can get in to something like that.  Heinlein, however, writes classic scifi, which is more my style.  You’ve probably read this one already, so I’ll just say that I thought it was an interesting vision of a future society, half utopian and half police state.  And powered armor is always fun.
8/10

“Do Unto Others…” Michael Z. Williamson
I didn’t really like the first Ripple Creek book, “Better to Beg Forgiveness,” as it seemed a bit too much like it was written, directed and produced by Sylvester Stallone, but “Do Unto” had more in the way of character development and, you know, that story stuff.  I think the Ripple Creek books have promise, but I’m not sure that Williamson has found his stride with them yet.
7/10

“Citizens,” edited by John Ringo and Brian M. Thomsen
 A collection of short stories written by authors who were in the military.  Made me want to re-read some of my Bolo books, but otherwise nothing much memorable for me in this one.
6/10

“Citadel,”  John Ringo
I really enjoyed “Live Free or Die,” the first in this series, and was looking forward to this one.  It doesn’t focus as much on Tyler Vernon, instead it focuses more on some new up and comers, a girl in the Navy and a Welder working for Vernon’s company.  I always like a science fiction story where the humans are continually underestimated and wind up completely surprising and overwhelming whatever alien overlord the author chooses.  Just makes me happy.  “Citadel” is not as funny as the first one, and focuses more on the military action side of things.  Funny story about this one–I read it in 12 hours, then went over to my friend’s house the next day, and it turns out his brother had had it on reserve at the library, but his mom forgot to tell him the library had called, so it went back out, and I unsuspectingly checked it out right after.  Instead of turning it straight back in I brought it over, and then my friend and his brother both read it, and then turned it in.  All on one checkout.

“1635:  The Eastern Front,” Eric Flint
I’ve read all of the hard-published books in the 1632 series.  I am coming to really really hate them.  You know that feeling you get when you read a good book and then find out that there is a sequel that hasn’t come out yet.  That happens every. single. time.  And how many more years are there after the 1630’s?  I can tell you we’re at least up to the 2010’s, and there seem to be more coming, so…
This whole stinking book is one big setup.  I waited three years since the last one in the “Main” storyline, and all I get is a big setup for the next one?  Quite frankly, I may stop paying attention to this series.  It will be like the “Wheel of Time” books, which I never read simply because there were so many.  Bah!
Book itself 7/10, even though I really like the series

Ok, that’s all for now.  As I mentioned a couple days back, we watched The Lord of the Rings, so I think I will be re-reading those books, now.  Starting with The Hobbit, of course.  Assuming I can find our supremely beat-up copies around here somewhere, and all the pages haven’t fallen out.

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Books of 2011: Under Heaven

I just finished reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Under Heaven.”

This book is poetry.  Reading it, you are constantly struck by the language, by the story.  I don’t know how describe it adequately; I don’t have the words for it. 

Guy Gavriel Kay writes writes stories that are woven in and out of history.  The books are almost fantasy, almost real.  “Under Heaven” occurs in a place much like Tang-era China, and the cultures that you encounter in the story are one of the reasons why it is so interesting. 

I have a passle of other books that I’ve read and need to write up here, but this one was special, and it got it’s own post. 

I give “Under Heaven” a rating of Amazing/10.

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