Tag Archives: 4star

the shepherd’s crown

The Shepherd’s Crown (Discworld #41, Tiffany Aching #5, Witches #11) by Terry Pratchett

From Goodreads:

A shivering of worlds.

Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning…

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is not the usual Terry Pratchett story. While there are a number of asides of the usual humour there are very few laugh out loud moments. The overall atmosphere is sombre and one of impending bad news. The loss of one of the key Discworld figures as well as the understanding that this is the absolutely final TP book leaves the book and the reader with an overall feeling of sadness. As a character Tiffany finally becomes her own person, taking control of her own destiny but even her success is tinged with a level of sadness.

The quality of writing is not up to the usual standard, nor is the construction of the storyline. However, the afterword makes it clear that this was an unfinished manuscript and that TP would undoubtedly have made further changes and additions. For all of that it is a worthy read and a fitting epitaph. As the afterword states:

The Shepherd’s Crown has a beginning, a middle and an end, and all the bits in between.

I’ll leave the last word to Death….

WE ARE ALL FLOATING IN THE WINDS OF TIME. BUT YOUR CANDLE […] WILL FLICKER FOR SOME TIME BEFORE IT GOES OUT –A LITTLE REWARD FOR A LIFE WELL LIVED. FOR I CAN SEE THE BALANCE AND YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT . . .

Terry Pratchett 1948-2015. Rest in Peace

excalibur

Excalibur (Warlord Chronicles #3) by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

In The Winter King and Enemy of God Bernard Cornwell demonstrated his astonishing ability to make the oft-told legend of King Arthur fresh and new for our time. Now, in this riveting final volume of The Warlord Chronicles, Cornwell tells the unforgettable tale of Arthur’s final struggles against the Saxons and his last attempts to triumph over a ruined marriage and ravaged dreams.

This is the tale not only of a broken love remade, but also of forces both earthly and unearthly that threaten everything Arthur stands for. Peopled by princesses and bards, by warriors and magicians, Excalibur is the story of love, war, loyalty, and betrayal-the work of a magnificent storyteller at the height of his powers.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

There is a tendency among many authors to keep a good idea going and going until they degrade the story and spoil it. It’s a refreshing change to see a traditional trilogy and to see it completed with no hints of more to come. The Arthurian legend naturally limits the story of course, but it’s still nice to have it finish completely.

Overall I’ve really enjoyed this version of Arthur. His story and that of the rest of the characters are portrayed in a very unique way and solidly placed within the history of ancient Britons. The arrival of Saxons and Christianity is particularly interesting for anyone that has already read the Last Kingdom books by the same author.

This last chapter deals mainly with the rise of Christianity and the final decline of the pagan Gods of Britain. It folds the final pieces of our characters’ stories into this and also melds the Arthurian story with them. This is done really, really well. Lots of questions are answered especially filling in the final pieces of Derfel’s story. However, despite delivering a very satisfying conclusion the overall feeling is one of sadness at the end.

The introduction of one new character has prompted me to rediscover another author from a long time ago. The new character is Taliesin the Bard who features heavily in another Arthurian based storyline by Stephen Lawhead called The Pendragon Cycle.

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lost in the wild

Lost in the Wild by Cary J. Griffith. Read by Roger Wayne.

From Audible:

In the wilderness, one false step can make the difference between a delightful respite and a brush with death.

On a beautiful summer afternoon in 1998, Dan Stephens, a 22-year-old canoeist, was leading a trip deep into Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park. He stepped into a gap among cedar trees to look for the next portage – and did not return. More than four hours later, Dan awakened from a fall with a lump on his head and stumbled deeper into the woods, confused.

Three years later, Jason Rasmussen, a third-year medical student who loved the forest’s solitude, walked alone into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on a crisp fall day. After a two-day trek into a remote area of the woods, he stepped away from his campsite and made a series of seemingly trivial mistakes that left him separated from his supplies, wet, and lost, as cold darkness fell.

Enduring days without food or shelter, these men faced the full harsh force of wilderness, the place that they had sought out for tranquil refuge from city life. Lost in the Wild takes listeners with them as they enter realms of pain, fear, and courage, as they suffer dizzying confusion and unending frustration, and as they overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles in a race to survive.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was my first time listening to an audiobook. I’ve listened to a few podcasts but not an actual book. I listened to it in the car on my commutes to and from work and while out walking. It took me a little while to get used to the idea and to work out how to concentrate on listening to the narrator without letting my mind wander and lose track of the story. However, once I got the hang of it I quite enjoyed the experience.

The story is very well done. The author structures the stories of the two men quite skillfully. The two stories are told separately but side by side with alternating chapters. It was a little confusing at the start but once I got used to the names and characters it was a lot easier to follow and keep the two stories separate.

He also tells their stories from lots of viewpoints. He describes the feelings and thoughts of the two missing men, their relatives and the search and rescue teams. In the case of Dan Stephens he also tells the story from the point of view of the scout group that he was guiding. It’s melded together to create a really good sense of suspense and tension. He also manages to tell the story without judgement. Jason Rasmussen makes a series of mistakes that he just recounts without commenting. Similarly he goes through the thought processes of the scout leaders to leave Dan to get help without telling the reader/listener what to think. He leaves it to us to make our own decisions about the rights and wrongs.

The final part of Jason’s story is particularly well told. The pace is quite fast with the story developing very quickly. It’s told from a number of viewpoints while still keeping us guessing to the actual outcome until the very end. The end of Jason’s story is very emotional and well told.

From my first time experience I’d say that the role of the narrator is crucial. In this case he was very good. It’s an American narrator which suits the setting of the story. His accent suits that of the characters and he tells the story in a nice steady pace. It’s fast enough to keep the story moving without the listener losing the details or flow of the story. The only difficulty I had was his attempts to change his voice and tone to match the characters, especially the female characters. It jarred with me a bit but didn’t ruin the experience. I think this is the default expectation when narrating an audiobook but I don’t think I like it.

I’ve already downloaded a second story to listen to. This is more of an audio drama and more similar to a podcast but with a positive first experience I definitely think I’ll be listening to more books like this.

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fatal voyage

Fatal Voyage (Temperance Brennan #4) by Kathy Reichs

From Goodreads:

Investigating a plane crash in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan discovers in a most disturbing way that the evidence doesn’t add up. Tripping over a coyote-chewed leg at the crash scene, she performs a little mental arithmetic and realizes that this victim wasn’t on the plane. Once again, Brennan’s high-tech DMORT snaps into action faster than you can say “Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team.” The author of <a href="http://cart2.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?isbn=0671011375
“>Death du Jour
serves up another exquisite meal.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was really good. The story switched from being based mostly in Montreal to North Carolina which broke the story nicely from the previous books. It also took in two different investigations that were nicely connected by Tempe’s involvement.

Both storylines were pretty unusual and I enjoyed them both but it was the detail provided on the air crash investigation that I found most interesting. The author provides details that I’ve never seen in a novel before that gave great insight without bogging the reader down with technical jargon or information overload.

I also enjoyed the character of the female Sheriff Crowe. A no-nonsense yet helpful and strong female character, she provided a nice counterpart to Tempe’s impulsiveness and sometimes flighty nature. I’d like to see more of her.

The only downside for me was the adolescent nature of the relationship between Tempe and Ryan. It jarred with the rest of the story and does nothing for Tempe’s character development. It makes her look weak especially alongside Crowe’s character. I hope the author can change that in later books or it could end up going the way of the Scarpetta books!

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the great bazaar & brayan’s gold

The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold (Demon Cycle #1.5 & 1.6) by Peter V Brett

From Goodreads:

From the dangerous world of the Demon Cycle comes the early adventures of Arlen, Peter V. Brett’s quintessential fantasy hero. These exciting origin tales follow Arlen as he learns to navigate a world where the elemental forces of evil conjure themselves from the earth each night.

Humanity has barely survived a demonic onslaught by using magical wards that protect their cities and homes. Only a handful of mercenaries and explorers risk traveling after the sun sets. Arlen, seeking adventure and fortune, is barely protected by the warded armor upon which he has inscribed intricate defensive runes. From a journey ferrying a wagonload of dynamite to a mountain stronghold, to a dangerous mission to recover desert treasures, Arlen faces friends and enemies with a strong arm and a cunning wit.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Two short stories set between the first and second books of the series. This is the first of three novellas published on a similar theme.

The first story is of Arlen on one of his early Messenger trips as an apprentice and is completely new to the overall series. The second details the interaction between Arlen and Abban after he has become Par’Chin to the Krasians. It explains how he received the map to the ancient city of Anoch Sun. This is referred to in the main series but never explained fully.

I really enjoyed these. They give a chance to return to the Demon Cycle Universe without rehashing the story and also add in details that enrich the main story. Highly recommended for anyone that has finished the main series or even part way through.

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a walk in the woods

A Walk in The Woods by Bill Bryson

From Goodreads:

The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America—majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way—and a couple of bears. Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I came to this book having watched the film a few days ago. The film is decent but I had a feeling there was more to the story in the book. In an unusual flip I found the book was enhanced by having seen the film. Sure, some of the scenes were modified, switched around or simply invented for the film but the spirit of the book is definitely there. What really enhanced the book though was Nick Nolte’s excellent portrayal of Katz. I couldn’t help but see and hear him jumping out of every page and piece of dialogue. Despite how it happened he ended up being a perfect casting choice.

Katz is the success of this book. Bryson himself is very straight, introspective and sometimes abrasive and arrogant. Katz provides the comedic element but also some of the most emotional and thought provoking parts of the story.

It’s hard to think of this book as non-fiction or a travelogue but it’s both. There are lots of negative reviews on Goodreads, mostly based on a negative view of Bryson but I really enjoyed it. It provides a great view of what it’s like to walk a long distance trail and also a nice historical record of how the AT came about. There are many interjections about how the nature of the American wilderness has and still is changing. Probably one for people interested in hiking and camping though.

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the core

The Core (Demon Cycle #5) by Peter V. Brett

From Goodreads:

For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose—men as close as brothers, yet divided by bitter betrayal. Arlen Bales became known as the Warded Man, tattooed head to toe with powerful magic symbols that enable him to fight demons in hand-to-hand combat—and emerge victorious. Jardir, armed with magically warded weapons, called himself the Deliverer, a figure prophesied to unite humanity and lead them to triumph in Sharak Ka—the final war against demonkind.

But in their efforts to bring the war to the demons, Arlen and Jardir have set something in motion that may prove the end of everything they hold dear—a Swarm. Now the war is at hand and humanity cannot hope to win it unless Arlen and Jardir, with the help of Arlen’s wife, Renna, can bend a captured demon prince to their will and force the devious creature to lead them to the Core, where the Mother of Demons breeds an inexhaustible army.

Trusting their closest confidantes, Leesha, Inevera, Ragen and Elissa, to rally the fractious people of the Free Cities and lead them against the Swarm, Arlen, Renna, and Jardir set out on a desperate quest into the darkest depths of evil—from which none of them expects to return alive.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A truly epic end to this series. It is a jam-packed story that took a long time to read. There’s an amazing amount of detail that takes focus and concentration to keep a track of. It’s definitely not one for a skim read.

For a change from many season finales this is actually an end. There are additional novellas that run around this main series and there is a new cycle in development but this book brings all the main storylines to a very satisfying close.

In line with the first four books there are a lot of influences visible in this story. The climactic battle between Arlen, Jardir, Renna and the Demon Queen is like a cross between “Alien” and Stephen King’s “It” while Hasik’s Eunuch Tribe and imprisonment of Abban feels like something from “Apocalypse Now”.

The multitude of characters and storylines are what makes this book so long and, at times, difficult to follow. Brett seems determined to bring back virtually every character and tie off their story. It does give a satisfying feeling of conclusion though.

The only storyline I had an issue with was the capture and imprisonment of Alagai Ka. I found this whole interaction very drawn out and forced. His involvement in the story felt forced and unnecessary. I can’t help but feeling that it would have been better to kill him off and absorb his memories and knowledge the way it was hinted with Renna and then surprisingly abandoned.

Overall this was a great series of books. I give it four stars across all five books and would definitely recommend it. I’ll definitely be taking a look at the other books written around the main series and look forward to reading the new cycle when it’s released.

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deadly decisions

Deadly Decisions (Temperance Brennan #3) by Kathy Reichs.

From Goodreads:

Nine-year-old Emily Anne Toussaint is fatally shot on a Montreal street. A North Carolina teenager disappears from her home, and parts of her skeleton are found hundreds of miles away. The shocking deaths propel Tempe Brennan from north to south, and deep into a shattering investigation inside the bizarre culture of outlaw motorcycle gangs — where one misstep could bring disaster for herself or someone she loves.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was pretty good and I zipped through it pretty quickly. It’s the kind of story that just picks you up and keeps running. We get to see a little bit more of Tempe’s personal life and family and get some education on the Hells Angels and other Motorcycle Gangs.

I didn’t really like the Ryan element of the story. It felt too contrived and seemed to be used to fix something broken in the story. It’s more of a gaffer tape fix than precision surgery as it still feels wrong but not enough to spoil things.

There’s nothing too complicated about this book or story. It’s just good.

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scarpetta

Scarpetta (Kay Scarpetta #16) by Patricia Cornwell

From Goodreads:

Leaving behind her private forensic pathology practice in Charleston, South Carolina, Kay Scarpetta accepts an assignment in New York City, where the NYPD has asked her to examine an injured man on Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric prison ward. The handcuffed and chained patient, Oscar Bane, has specifically asked for her, and when she literally has her gloved hands on him, he begins to talk—and the story he has to tell turns out to be one of the most bizarre she has ever heard.

The injuries, he says, were sustained in the course of a murder . . . that he did not commit. Is Bane a criminally insane stalker who has fixed on Scarpetta? Or is his paranoid tale true, and it is he who is being spied on, followed and stalked by the actual killer? The one thing Scarpetta knows for certain is that a woman has been tortured and murdered—and more violent deaths will follow. Gradually, an inexplicable and horrifying truth emerges: Whoever is committing the crimes knows where his prey is at all times. Is it a person, a government? And what is the connection between the victims?

In the days that follow, Scarpetta; her forensic psychologist husband, Benton Wesley; and her niece, Lucy, who has recently formed her own forensic computer investigation firm in New York, will undertake a harrowing chase through cyberspace and the all-too-real streets of the city—an odyssey that will take them at once to places they never knew, and much, much too close to home.

Throughout, Cornwell delivers shocking twists and turns, and the kind of cutting-edge technology that only she can provide. Once again, she proves her exceptional ability to entertain and enthrall.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I ended up reading this almost by accident and against my better judgement after the really poor experience with the last few books in the series. I don’t know why I downloaded it but it somehow ended up being the last book on my Kindle and it was easier to give it a go than start the process of looking for new books.

I was very surprised to find myself enjoying it! It’s a great return to the characters that I enjoyed in earlier books. Benton is still disappointing but Lucy is more engaging. There are a number of interesting characters specific to the story as well as a reintroduction of Jaime Berger from an earlier book. The tension of the relationship between Marino and Kay is handled really well and I hope it can be resolved completely in later books.

The actual story is also very good and quite compelling to read. The handling of Oscar’s story in particular was very good. Pacing is excellent once you get past the initial Oscar/Kay meeting and the unfortunately standard angst between Benton and Kay in the first quarter of the book. Once past this I found the story pretty gripping and flew through the second half in particular.

This book has finally restored my faith in the series and with another eight left I think I’ll give the next one a go as well – ever the optimist!

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el camino: a breaking bad movie

From IMDb:

Finally free from torture and slavery at the hands of Tod’s uncle Jack, and from Mr. White, Jesse must escape demons from his past. He’s on the run from a police manhunt, with his only hope of escape being Saul Goodman’s hoover guy, Ed Galbraith. A man who for the right price, can give you a new identity and a fresh start. Jesse is racing against the clock, with help from his crew, avoiding capture to get enough money together to buy a ‘new dust filter for his Hoover MaxExtract PressurePro model’, a new life.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This story picks up immediately from the events of the Breaking Bad finale and Jesse’s escape from the crime gang. It follows his attempts to put everything behind him and start again. But to move forward he must look back and confront some of his own demons.

I really enjoyed this as it gave Jesse a chance to become more than just the sullen teenager that he is for much of the original series. He’s changed by his captivity and it’s great to see him do more than get stoned and say “yo!” and “bitch“. We see a deeper character in this movie.

I also loved seeing so many of the old characters back for one more spin. Todd’s weight change and Joe’s rapid aging are a bit jarring but apart from that it’s believable. Mike was always one of my favourite characters from both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul but I absolutely loved Badger and Skinny this time around. They, Skinny in particular, proved themselves to be Jesse’s true friends.

This is a fitting end to Jesse’s story and a project worth doing. Felina was Walt’s final chapter and I’m glad Jesse got to finish his story too.