Bills Books

The Matarese Countdown - Robert Ludlum

This is the first Robert Ludlum book I've read and I went into it with somewhat high expectations considering how well known he is. My expectations were not met. The story is okay but his writing style; particularly his dialog, really just didn't feel right to me. None of the dialog between any of the main characters seemed believable. For example, at times one character would say something and the initial response would be heated and angry but then, almost immediately, the angry character would cool off and realize they were being ridiculous. I could understand if one of the characters had that pronounced of mood swings in a conversation but it seemed like every character went through the same rapid shifts.

The interpersonal dynamics of the "couples" was really odd too. People who seemed, through the course of the book, to not interact that much, shouldn't suddenly be calling each other "My Darling". It just seemed like Ludlum really wanted to force a romantic element into the story so he did even though the female half of the couple was very remote until the spark flew and the male half even admitted he had never had interest in having a real relationship. Their sudden pairing just felt contrived and didn't really add anything useful to the story.

Some of the elements in the story - the actual Matarese conspiracy - were pretty interesting and they seemed to be pulled right from our current geo-political environment. The conspiracy itself seemed believable and the "villains" while not particularly nefarious were generally believable even if they were very shallowly drawn.

Overall The Matarese Countdown just seemed to skim over the actual plot and the conclusion seemed a bit too forced and clean for what is a tale about a worldwide financial conspiracy.

Will Power - A.J. Hartley

 

Much like the previous book in the Hawthorne Saga, Act of WillWill Power is a light and fun read. It continues to follow the adventures of William Hawthorne. By the time you pick up this second book you've decided you like Will otherwise you probably wouldn't have grabbed this book. Will is an unusual and reluctant hero - more reluctant that most reluctant hero's really. However, he is also oddly brave for someone who claims to only be interested in keeping himself alive.

This episode of the saga has Will and his adventuring friends entering a different nation filled with bear riding Goblins that are at war with a majestic and beautiful city full of majestic and beautiful people. Almost immediately Will and his friends get split up so that Orgros and Mithos, the two main warriors of the party are lost, and Garnet and the Party leader are also missing which just leaves Will and Renthrette to navigate the war and to figure out a way to survive and return home to Stavis.

Nothing about the book is particularly suprising as you read it but Heartley spins a fun tale and Will manages to do some amazing things in spite of himself. If you're looking for a quick and fun fantasy novel or series then this book, and the Will Hawthorne Series should be right up your alley.

I actually liked this book a little better than the previous even though there are some scnees where I think Will's friends are unreasonably hard on him that annoyed me.

Act of Will (Tor Fantasy) - A.J. Hartley

Act of Will is a fun book. Will is as unlikely of a hero as you'll find in the fantasy genre. The book starts with him hoping to become a full actor in his company because it is his eighteenth birthday but things quickly fall apart for Will and he finds himself on the run and in the company of some true adventurers.

Will has a lot to learn on the road not only about adventuring but about the world, women, and himself.

Honestly there is nothing particularly unique or original in the overall story or the tropes used however it's still enjoyable. Will is an oddly likable character and his companions are all sort of interesting though A.J. Hartley could have developed them all quite a bit more.

If you're looking for an enjoyable and light read then this is a great book to go with.  I give it a 3/5 rating.

Stonewielder: A Novel of the Malazan Empire (Malazan Empire Novel #3) - Ian C. Esslemont

  

I have enjoyed all of my forays into the world of Malazan and this trip, with Stoneweilder, is no different. Sure, the timespan being covered is much smaller than in some books and some of the main characters are new to me, but I still felt comfortable delving into the isles of Fist and learning about the battle with "The Lady" and the eternal battle with the Riders along the storm wall.

I don't really have a favorite author between Esslemont and Erikson but I do like when either of them touches about the Crimson Guard and Esslemont seems more likely to do so and this book carried on that tradition. Sadly, however, there wasn't enough Crimson Guard action in the book for me - though you do get a very graphic idea of just how bad-ass Iron Bars is. Let's just say it is gripping.

A few characters we have been previously introduced are key protagonists in this book as well but some of the story lines aren't resolved at all by the time the book ends so it felt weird following them for so much of the book only to discover they didn't really tie into the main story arch of the novel at all. Also, because of the way Malazan books are written you may already know the end to at least one arc before you read this book.

My only other gripe about the book is that it seems to change perspective too often. In fact had he just left one of the unresolved story arches out of the book I feel like the entire thing would have been cleaner and more focused.

Regardless of my issues with changing point of view the book was a fun read and I recommend it to anyone that enjoys the genre.

 

The Grim Company

The Grim Company (The Grim Company, #1) - Luke Scull

In my "in progress" review of The Grim Company that I wrote on Goodreads I said:

"It's pretty fast paced and has some fun and interesting characters; though I honestly have trouble caring about one of the main characters; he's too shallow to be believable.

I like the magic system and am curious about the history of the world that the magelords don't want to think about."

My opinion really didn't change as I finished the book.  The style of the book is very similar to an Abercrombie tale; fun, violent, fast paced, and containing a tough grizzled veteran.  In fact one of the primary characters reminds me quite a bit of Logan Ninefingers from Abercrombie's works - except this guy has all of his fingers.

This was one of the fastest reading books I've picked up in a while.  The language is all pretty concise and it was satisfying to hit such major plot points all within one novel as opposed to the trend of most modern fantasy to wind out of control into seven or eight volumes.   In fact, so much happens in this book I imagine the next two in the trilogy will be incredibly exciting.  I look forward to more of Scull's work

King Rat

King Rat - China Miéville This book takes place in present day London and for that reason alone I got a kick out of it because I happened to be in London as I read it. I hadn't been in London since I was five so it was kind of cool to see bits and pieces of London by day and then read about Saul and King rat exploring those very same locales, albeit from a far different perspective, at night. In fact, at one point, as I was reading in my hotel room on High Holborn, Saul and King Rat ran right past my window in the book (page 98). That was pretty cool.

Centennial

Centennial - James A. Michener I discovered this book, initially, via a mini-series production of it that my 7th grade teacher showed me. I immediately got the book and I'm glad I did. I really enjoyed it and it lead me to a few of his other books that I also really enjoyed.I also discovered, thanks to this book, that I enjoy Historical fiction.

The Way of Shadows (The Night Angel Trilogy)

The Way of Shadows - Brent Weeks In "The Way of the Shadow" we are introduced to the two primary characters of the Night Angel series by Brent Weeks; Azoth and Durzo. Durzo is a wetbot, sort of like an assassin but better because wetboys have the use of the Talent (magic). Azoth is a young boy without much hope in his life. He has no family, only 2 friends, no home, and he is low on the totem pole of power within his chosen street gang. However, he dreams of being much more after meeting Durzo Blint; he dreams of being a wetboy - a man with no fears and endless freedom.Azoth can only see one way to become a wetboy and that is by getting Durzo to apprentice him - however Durzo doesn't take apprentices and even if he does Azoth would have to pay a high price to prove his worth.The Way of the Shadow is a very easy and fast read with great pacing. Azoth's two friends Jarl and Doll Face are both small gems nestled in the ugly world of the warrens that Azoth lives within and the three of them are all characters you can care about. Durzo is more than just an efficient killer though, truth be told, he remains fairly one dimensional throughout this first installment.The world featured in the tale is interesting, the magic is also sort of unique in how it explains the limitations of certain mages (or how magic even exists) and some of the nations within the world promise to be very interesting if Weeks ever revisits the world in another story. I bought all three books of this series at once so I was able to read the trilogy nonstop which helped keep my interest as well.I am also biased going in as I tend to enjoy stories featuring a rogue and this story, obviously, fits in that mold. Weeks does a decent job of depicting the assassins life with his many hideouts and traps. However, at times, I felt like the wetboys were too powerful compared to the rest of the main characters in the world. Even with that said "The Way of the Shadow" was nice introduction to the world.

Black Sun Rising: The Coldfire Trilogy #1

Black Sun Rising - C.S. Friedman This is kind of a vampire story with a pretty cool magic system and a collection of very interesting characters. I honestly don't remember the book very well, I read it well over 15 years ago, but I do remember the cover art. I've always really liked it and even have a print of it on my office wall.

The Yearling (Aladdin Classics)

The Yearling - Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings This is the first non kids (Dr. Seuss, golden) book I ever read (I was apx 5). I barely remember it and should probably read it again.

The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution

The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution - Richard Dawkins While this book is interesting it's also kind of boring so it's been very slow going.

Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1)

Quicksilver - Neal Stephenson pically never quit on a book, and I didn't quit on this one either. However, I will probably quit on the series. Heck there are two or three more books in this cycle and I don't think I could handle being lectured to for another 2-3 thousand pages. I hear his first work, Snow Crash, is really good but of course this comes from the same folks who love the Baroque Cycle. I just don't get it.

Shadowmarch: Shadowmarch: Volume I

Shadowmarch - Tad Williams I'm not sure how many books are going to be in this series but the first promises a great tale in the end. I believe the story was started as a community driven one at the Shadowmarch website. However, I didn't hear about the book until I bumped into it at the store. If you like fantasy then you will like this book; so go get it.

Knife of Dreams (The Wheel of Time, Book 11)

Knife of Dreams - Robert Jordan I am inclined to say that I like book 11 as much as any other (if not more so) in the series. It was fantastically exciting, full of surprises (and not-surprises) interesting twists, and plenty of evidence the Tarmon Gai'don (the last battle between dark and light) is rapidly approaching. It is also strong evidence that the series is finally ending. The series will end with book 12 (sadly, not written by R.J. who passed away last year). I still can't wait for that to be released. My only major gripe about this installment, as always, is the cover art by Darryl K Sweet. I can't stand his manner of drawing people.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany - William L. Shirer I've been off and on reading this for over 2 years now. It's interesting but kind of boring and whenever any fiction comes along this gets pushed to the backburner

Cryptonomicon

Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson Even if you aren't a geek, if you have any interest in treasure hunting type stories or WWII based historical fiction this would be a good novel to pick up.

Currently reading

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
William L. Shirer
Walden
Henry David Thoreau
The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution
Richard Dawkins
The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century
Thomas L. Friedman
My Name is Red
Orhan Pamuk, Erdağ M. Göknar
Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community
Robert D. Putnam
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto
Chuck Klosterman