The Skull Throne - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 7/10/2015 12:00:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle, #4)The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On my scale, a 5 star book is one that I would consider buying for someone else to read.

This is another great installment in Mr. Brett's "Demon Cycle" series of books.  It is frequently difficult for the middle books of a series to maintain a high level of interest in the reader.  It can be difficult to manufacture meaningful incremental plot points that service the larger plot.

Mr. Brett easily manages to continue to present unique perspectives on the story with a steady succession of plot points that engage and entertain.

This book and this series should be featured in every book award competition in the coming year.  This is award worthy fiction.

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Ressurection: A Zombie Novel - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 7/09/2015 12:00:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Resurrection: A Zombie NovelResurrection: A Zombie Novel by Michael J. Totten

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have been a huge fan of Michael Totten's writing on the Middle East for years.  He has a deft ability to present a complete vision of the subject matter at hand.  He also has a great sense of narrative in developing a theme.

I was expecting that to translate into his fictional writing as well.  While this was a reasonably entertaining read, it just didn't hold my attention very well.  Something was missing in the plot as it seemed to play on all the usual tropes.

On my scale, a three star book is one I enjoyed reading once, but if I give you my hard copy, I don't want it back as I'm not likely to read it again.

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Knight's Shadow - A Goodreads review


Posted on : 7/08/2015 12:00:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Knight's Shadow (Greatcoats, #2)Knight's Shadow by Sebastien de Castell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An outstanding read.  Another clear 5 star book from Sebastien de Castell!

Just go read it.

In my book, a 5 star book is one that I would be willing to buy for others to read.

This book picks up where book one left off.

The magistrates have discovered the dead King's daughter; his heir.  We discover that he may actually have more than one heir.

The King's mother has been working behind the scenes to build a new force of fighters to oppose the Dukes who are now ruthlessly ruling their lands unconstrained by a King/Queen and their magistrates.

We learn a bit more about the politics between the Dukes.  They apparently only cooperate when it is to their advantage.

We also learn a bit more about the knights that serve the Dukes.  The knights and the magistrates are the two competing forces.  Where the magistrates serve the law, the knights follow a code where it is honorable to enforce the whims of their respective Duke.

The Dukes discover that the dead King's vision of government constrained by law has some merit.

Like book 1, this book's reflections on the theme of limited government are common sense.  Like book 1, the end provoked another significant emotional response.

This book is time and money well spent.  Go get a copy.

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Traitor's Blade - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 7/07/2015 12:00:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Traitor's Blade (Greatcoats, #1)Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great read!  Just go read it.

An outstanding first book.

In my world, 5 stars means that I'd be willing to buy a copy and give it away.

A fantastic book about three judges/magistrates that travel the land ensuring that everyone obeys the law.  The prospect of limited power naturally draws the ire of the Dukes that hold most of the power.

To ensure that the law is obeyed, the King has trained and equipped these magistrates to be able to personally enforce the law.

At the start of the book, the King is already dead.  He was killed by the armies of the Dukes.  What unfolds is the story of how the King as an unlikely heir became King and how the magistrates because magistrates.

Also unfolding is the King's quests that he gave to every magistrate before he surrendered to the Dukes.

I find the premise of the book to be fascinating in that it reflects some very common sense notions about government and the law.  The King, while he lived, had a small government that was only strong in the areas where it was able to be strong.  There is also the theme of ensuring that no one is every above the law.

The ending provoked a very strong reaction from me.  I cannot recommend this book enough.

Hopefully, this series will live up to the expectations of this first book.  We should expect this book to be on the short list for every award.

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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - A Goodreads Review


Posted on : 7/06/2015 12:00:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance, #1)The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" by N.K. Jemisin was a great read.  I gave it a solid 4 star rating.

In my book, 4 stars means that if I lend you a physical copy of the book, then I expect to get it back so I can read it again in the future.

The book has as a central premise that one of the universe's three gods has been forced into service for one group of humans.  There are also a handful of lesser godlings that were created by the three gods that have also been forced into serving the same group of humans.

This small group of humans in turn uses the divine power at their disposal to dominate the rest of the nations of the planet; hence the hundred thousand kingdoms in the book's title.  It appears that they use this divine power sparingly, preferring instead to act through a sort of massive parliament that gives some measure of representation to each nation.

The division of divine power harkens back to morality in the early days of Dungeon & Dragons in gaming.  D&D began with the idea that being good equated to being lawful.  Similarly, being evil equated to being chaotic.  Neutral was in between as one might expect.

Later editions of D&D introduce the concept of being "chaotic good" and "lawful evil".

The one area where the rulers do lavish a bit of divine power is in the construction and maintenance of their castle/city that is located in the sky.  Ms. Jemisin had a very complete vision of such a city and shares it with the reader in loving detail.

The thumbnail sketch of the plot is that there was a war.  The now ruling group of humans aided one of the gods in the war.  As a result, another of the gods was killed....or so we think...and the rest were subjugated and sentenced to serve the humans that had been so helpful.

The daughter of the king falls in love with someone from one of the outlying nations.  Apparently such things are rare but do occur on the fringes of the noble family.  It was unheard of for someone so close to ruling to divert away from ruling.

The daughter leaves to marry and live in the remote nation.  She in turn has a daughter who ends up leading the remote nation.  Throughout her existence, this granddaughter has only known that her people suffer because her mother left the capitol to be with her father.  An embargo of sorts was placed against her homeland.  She presumes that the embargo was the will of her grandfather.

Eventually, she is called to the capitol.  She is recognized as a member of the royal family and declared to be one of three family members who will become the next monarch after her grandfather's impending death.  The other two candidates are an aunt and an uncle.  As you might imagine, there are some politics involved in just about everything that happens after that point.

Ms. Jemisin tells an intriguing and entertaining tale in a fully developed fantasy world that is imaginative and largely functional.

If this review has raised your interest, then please go borrow or buy this book and enjoy the read.  Nothing that follows will enhance that experience.  There aren't any spoilers, but I'm using the spoiler space just to save folks the trouble.

What follows is tangentially related to the Hugo kerfuffles that have been growing recently.  You have been warned.

There is one defect to the plot.  It isn't fatal, but it is there.

WaPo - Predicatable Bias


Posted on : 7/05/2015 11:50:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

Welcome back to LaaC - formerly Dann's Dain Bramage - formerly where I used to write on a regular basis.  Hopefully, this is a trend away from "formerly".

We have a couple Kindle's in the house.  One of them has an app from the Washington Post.  They very wisely offer the first few months of reading for free to get you hooked.  Then they ask for $1 for six months and then $4 a month thereafter.  Thus far, it appears to be just their current stories.  I haven't found a way look for past stories.  But I'm working on it.

I had resisted paying anything to the WaPo.  Their leftist bias shows up far too frequently.  However, I have enjoyed a lot of their non-biased reporting.  So we ponied up the buck to start paying for content.

And what do we get on day #1?  Predictable drivel.

The first story is on the kerfuffle in Texas over the coming military exercises.  For the record, I think the concern is misplaced.  Mr. Obama isn't running a stealth offensive against Texas or any other state.  Even if he were, the military wouldn't go along with it.

Also for the record and as the story suggests, a least part of the problem is that there are still folks that don't trust Mr. Obama based on the color of his skin.  That's a problem that the folks in the GOP are going to have to solve.  But is not the primary problem.  Not by a long short.

From the story:

Inside, county Chairman Albert Ellison pulled out a yellow legal pad on which he had handwritten page after page of reasons why many Texans distrust President Obama, including the fact that, “in the minds of some, he was raised by communists and mentored by terrorists.”

I would add that his formative years included inculcation in an anti-colonialist perspective.  Mr. Obama seems to not understand the importance of American strength (economic, diplomatic, and military) on the world political stage in liberating billions of people from oppressive regimes and/or lifting them out of poverty.  Our advocacy of individual liberty has had a tremendously positive influence in the world.  Based on his words and his works, I don't think he appreciates of the positive influence America has had in the last 100 years.

From the story:

Obama “doesn’t take national threats seriously enough,” Ellison said, ticking off Obama’s policies toward Russia, Iran, Cuba and the Islamic State, as well as illegal immigration across the U.S. southern border and the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya.

“What he views as alarming instead is conservatism,” Ellison said, alleging that the Obama administration has used the Internal Revenue Service to attack the Tea Party and other conservative groups, been hostile to gun owners, issued what conservatives consider an illegal executive order to avoid deporting illegal immigrants, and “been complicit in stirring riots” in racially charged situations in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore.
Again, for the record, Benghazi probably was not all that some folks think it was.  There was certainly a measure of incompetence involved, but there was also the fact that, contrary to some opinions, the U.S. does not exercise infinite control in every nation around the world.

The problem in the above has to do with illegal executive orders halting the deportations of illegal immigrants.  It isn't just "conservative groups" that have a problem with those orders.  So do the courts.  Perhaps the reporter that wrote this story should read more.

Administration lawyers lied in court. The technical term is perjury.  The only reason they aren't in jail is that our courts offer lawyers very collegial treatment.

The second article was on gun ownership in Japan.  The article describes a highly regulated activity that coincides with Japan's history as well as the character of Japanese culture.  It works for them and that is fine.

The problem...from the article:

In Japan, shooting is not something you do to let off steam. People don’t go to their local ranges in T-shirts and jeans to unload a few rounds into an Osama bin Laden target.
In which the author identifies herself as a hoplophobe with little experience with gun ranges in America.  Are there Osama bin Laden targets?  Of course.  Do people wear t-shirts and jeans?  Of course.  However, the article suggests that gun ranges are loaded with people burning ammo to "let off steam".  She suggests a lack of concern with marksmanship.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  People that shoot guns are obsessed with marksmanship.  An author that owned a gun and actually experienced life at a few gun ranges would know that and would accurately convey American gun culture.

Such cavalier misreporting by the media is frustrating.