Dead Beat (Dresden Files #7), Jim Butcher

dead-heat

Paperback, 517 pages
Penguin ROC

★★★★★ – Excellent book. A favourite. Would read annually.

It would appear that Chicago is developing a bit of a zombie problem, and this putting a foul smell in local, professional wizard Harry Dresden’s nose. Dead Beat is the 7th installment of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, and it truly is a romp through the supernatural circus. Dresden learns that a particularly dislikable vampire is threatening to hurt his friends unless he finds and delivers an immensely powerful book. With a no-questions-asked clause to this blackmail-bound contract, Harry has no choice but to renew his library card and start snooping around. Much to Dresden’s displeasure, the book is also being hunted by a ragtag gang of rival sorcerers who have no reservations about dismembering anyone in their way. Book 7 has an enormous cast of new and interesting characters, as well as many of our close favourites, such as Thomas, and Butters. Jim Butcher sets the field with conflicting interests galore, and let’s Dresden fall uncomfortably into the middle of it all.

Dead Beat is hands down my favourite Dresden Files story. The novel is the most memorable of the series simply for the sheer number of epic and unforgettable scenes throughout the narrative. As I stated previously, the story is also loaded with characters, and is certainly one of what I might start calling “Dresden All-Stars” stories.

Overall, I give Dead Beat a remarkable 5 stars out of five. I enjoyed it a great deal, and always look forward to re-reading this book in particular. Even for its significant length, Dead Beat is just a real banger of an adventure and never really slows down.

Again, listening to the audiobooks is also a magical treat only made possible by the wonderful narration of James Marsters.

Advertisements

Fear: Trump in the White House, Bob Woodward

71IR9ucf2KL

Hardcover, 420 pages
Simon & Schuster

★★★½ – Great book, an enjoyable one-time read.

Fear: Trump in the White House, is long-time political author Bob Woodward’s answer to the last two years of madness in the Oval Office. Woodward takes a deep dive into the White House, with interviews and recollections given (supposedly) by staffers and other contacts within the administration. Woodwards writes in such a way as to prevent the reader from accurately identifying who the source is, which makes the book far more interesting to read. It’s essentially written as a third person narrative. The integrity of Bob Woodward as an author and reporter makes the majority of this text seem credible. It is the nature of this credibility which makes this book equal parts amazing and terrifying. It paints a rather more moderate view of the general incompetence of the staffers of the Trump white house. Many of them appear to be far more intelligent than one would be led to believe, particularly when influenced by one’s own particular political bubble. Trump however, appears far more out of his depth than was imaginable. Woodward paints a picture of a bumbling, impulsive narcissist and liar, which is probably the most believable part of the entire book.

Something that I garnered from the reading which I did not expect was a feeling that Trump, apart from being unhinged and incompetent, is actually significantly more evil than I initially thought. It’s not simply a matter of him being a narcissist, Trump actively sews discord and chaos around himself. He enjoys social carnage, and seeing people go at each other’s throats. Woodward does seem to have an agenda, which is to shed light on how a president should not act, and how unfit for office Trump really is.

I give Fear: Trump in the White House a comfortable 3.5 stars out of five. I don’t think I will likely read it again, but I quite enjoyed it for the information as much as the visceral experience.

The Long Dark – A Hiatus

Hello all,

As you obviously can see, I took a bit of a long break from writing reviews.

I am currently in graduate school for Information Sciences, and it has completely eaten up all my time for reading and writing for pleasure. Fret not however, with summer rounding the bend, I hope to spend time once again reading and writing book reviews.

Come back to me, and enjoy the journey!

~Joshua

A Casual Review: The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man, Bruce Cameron

midnight

Hardcover, 336 pages
Forge Books

★★★ – Good book; an enjoyable one-time read.

Hey ya’ll, I am returning once again to a life of book reviews being that I have a lot of down-time, and I desperately need some purpose while I wait for grad school to start up.

I initially picked up Bruce Cameron’s The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man because I kept seeing the title in the stacks at the library, and the absurdity of the rhyme just got extremely lodged in my brain.

The novel tracks the life of small town repoman, and hobbyist bookworm, Ruddy McCann. He’s a bit of a down-on-his luck sort of guy, who seems to just be plodding along one day at a time. Rather suddenly, Ruddy begins to hear the voice of a presumed dead realtor. What he and his family consider to be a case of career PTSD (apparently a relatively common repoman risk), turns into a high stakes murder mystery with a very interesting edge.

The language of the novel is pretty simple, which makes it uncomplicated and quite approachable. Its simplicity initially irked me, but I grew accustomed to it,and eventually enjoyed the more authentic small-town, rural feel to it.

For a book that I picked up on a whim due to its catchy title, I quite enjoyed it. I give The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man 3 out of 5 stars. The book surprised me with a unique and interesting plot, and was generally just a pleasure to read. 

Lab Girl, Hope Jahren

Lab Girl

Hardcover, 290 pages
Alfred A. Knopf

★★★★★ – Excellent book; a favourite; would read annually.

My #1 pick for books published in 2016, Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl is the charming memoir of a true woman of science. If you’re looking for a pleasant work of nonfiction, written by a brilliant female author, look no further. Jahren’s detailed and beautifully contemplative prose describes her life, beginning with her family upbringing in a small town in Minnesota. She cleverly retells her journey through academia, with a voice of educated, comfortable sarcasm and wit. Chapters are separated with short, scientific anecdotes about trees and plants; her writing shifting into a beautifully contemplative, poetic tone. She portrays herself with an incredible passion for science; expressing a somewhat manic obsession that so often drives lifelong researchers.

The book was not only a cozy memoir, but also an informative survey of basic plant sciences. Jahren’s descriptions of her plant studies tickled my own passing interests in botany and soil sciences. Most importantly is her underlying message for readers; namely that anyone can pursue science with the right outlook. To put it more simply, Jahren writes that science isn’t just fancy lab coats, and regimented experiments, it’s asking questions with the desire to learn. She also greatly stresses the perseverance of women in STEM fields. This book is a great appeal for women studying sciences, as well just pursuing the fields that they find themselves most passionate about. 

I give Lab Girl a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars. Hope Jahren has crafted an inspiring, and wonderfully well written memoir. She provides us with not only a glimpse into the world of academic research, but allows us a peek into the feelings of the people who live in that world.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

long-way-planet

Paperback, 518 pages
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

★★★★★ – Excellent book. A favourite. Would read annually.

Wow, just wow. Aside from minor discussions about The Hobbit, I don’t think I’ve done a five-star book review on my site yet. But, here we are.

Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was spectacular. We’re only 20 days into 2017, and I’ve already got a contender for my favourite book read this year. Book #1 of the Wayfarer series, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was exactly what my SciFi escapist mind was yearning for. Think Firefly meets Star Trek, with a little MASS EFFECT thrown in there. The novel is a cozy SciFi romp through the futurist eyes of author Becky Chambers, and her wonderfully rich universe of aliens and space ships.

The Wayfarer is a tunneler ship. Her diverse and rowdy crew have one job, and that job is punching holes in the fabric of space-time. Without dropping too many spoilers, the story follows the crew as they complete a long-haul mission to connect a species that has been newly admitted to the Galactic Confederation (GC, for short, obviously), to GC space. The characters are so entertaining that they can’t help growing in a reader’s mind. The A.I. Lovey, for instance, is so charming that she really makes me long for the day when we all have robot assistants (not that I am yearning for my own, personal Her moment).

Becky Chambers has really kept me on my recent SciFi rails. Ever since I finished Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning (review coming when I figure out how to condense that complex novel into regular human words), I have been on a futurist space bender. More and more do I wish I lived in the day-of-tomorrow, and I have been energetically seeking SciFi escapist novels. Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet gets a solid 5 out of 5 stars because it truly was a joy to read, and will surely be a pleasure to read again.

A Casual Review: Series: Star Wars – Legacy of The Force

star-wars-legacy-of-the-force-wallpaper

#1 Betrayal, Aaron Allston
Paperback, 496 pages
Arrow

#2 Bloodlines, Karen Traviss
Paperback, 380 pages
Del Rey

#3 Tempest, Troy Denning
Paperback, 400 pages
Del Rey

#4 Exile, Aaron Allston
Paperback, 368 pages
Arrow

#5 Sacrifice, Karen Traviss
Paperback, 512 pages
Del Rey

#6 Inferno, Troy Denning
Paperback, 312 pages
Del Rey

#7 Fury, Aaron Allston
Paperback, 384 pages
Del Rey

#8 Revelation, Karen Travis
Paperback, 448 pages
Del Rey

#9 Invincible, Troy Denning
Hardcover, 320 pages
LucasBooks

Having finally finished reading through the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force novels, it is time to discuss the now-not-canon expanded Star Wars universe. I was 3/4ths of the way through the books when Darth Mickey was established as the overlord ruler of the Sith, and Princess Leia ascended to the all-time greatest Disney princess (Though, in truth that position is actually held by Belle). I still chose to plod on, because I wasn’t going to stop at book 5; some things just need to be finished, and book series are one of those things. Old-canon Star Wars books aren’t really anything special as far as SciFi is concerned. They are exactly what they are, which is a Star Wars story, existing in the complicated, and often nonsensical Star Wars Expanded Universe. Most of the characters are fairly well known by the majority of the fandom, and the storyline of most arcs are pretty standard “Evil Force/entity deigns to take-over/destroy the galaxy, Jedi/Rebellion/Alliance/Conglomerate-of-the-’Good Guys’ have a bit of a beef with that, good guys win in the end.” That being said, the actual description of that line of story is what makes the novels enjoyable to read, and in the end, the authors make the stories great by writing so well into such a limiting space.

The Legacy of the Force series was spun together through the collaboration of three authors, Troy Denning, Karen Travis, and the late Aaron Allston. Each author brings their own unique style to the story, while also working together with the other two to avoid creating an awkward sense of obvious collaboration. Aaron Allston did a great job of detailing the sheer epicness of Star Wars space, and the battles that tend to take place amongst the stars. Troy Denning focused more on jedi conflicts, and the lightsaber battles, as well as a lot of the social strife in the Jedi Order. Karen Travis swung her skills into describing inner character turmoil, as well as the shady political intrigue that happens throughout the series. Travis also wrote the Boba Fett stories of the series, which are probably the most interesting part of all the novels. Boba Fett is a very cool character, who fans have always been enamoured with, even though he receives so little screen-time in the films. Travis allowed us to see a bit more of the rough and bitter man behind the visor. I should note that no author makes an mention of midichlorians, so that was a huge boon to my Star Wars reading experience. 

Overall, I would give the Star Wars: A Legacy of The Force series a 4 out of five stars. I enjoyed the novels, and it was certainly a good series to read through, and there is a chance I might read through them again some day.

While I’m a bit sad that the Old Canon has gone and died, I am interested, and somewhat excited to get to experience what will probably be the birth of a New Canon, and a new, though likely just as cluttered and absurd, Star Wars New Expanded Universe.