Reading List 2019

War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 5
.0 Stars * * * * *
What a treat knowing that The Flame Bearer wasn’t the end of the awesome Saxon series. Uthred thought he was going to relax and enjoy Babbenburg, but he was wrong. As typical with this series, the characters come alive in this book, and the action scenes are as good as ever.  

Queen of Crows by Myke Cole
Rating: 4.0 Stars * * * *
While I really enjoyed the first half of this book, I felt the battle scenes during the past part of the book was confusing and dragged on a bit too long. I didn’t think the character development was a good as the first book (The Armored Saint), particularly with Samson. That said, it was a good read. 

The Armored Saint by Myke Cole
Rating: 4.5 stars * * * * 
What a fun and fast read. Once I started this book I simply could not put it down, hence the 4.5 star rating. The ending was quite a shocker, something that completely took me by surprise (I won’t give it away!). The character development was good, particularly with the main character Heloise. Although I have about 10 books waiting on my reading queue, I am immediately moving onto the next book in this 3-book trilogy, Queen of Crows

The Magicians by Lev Grossman 
Rating: 3
.0 stars * * *
This book was like reading the first Harry Potter book, only with post-high school and college students. My criticism about the book was that, like the Harry Potter series, magic can be conjured up just by saying certain words in the right order (incantations). My personal preference (and bias) is that magic must have some sort of limiting factor. That said, the limiting factor in The Magicians was skill - not everyone could do magic. I only gave it three stars because I felt the book dragged on a bit, and I lost interest in many sections of the book. However, that said the story was great, and I really liked the main characters.  The book didn’t quite interest me enough to read the other two books in the series, so it’s off to other books for the time being.

Fall (Dodge in Hell) by Neal Stephenson 
Rating: 2
.0 stars * * 
This was not one of my favorite Neal Stephenson books. While I loved the topic and theme, the book was too long and too tedious, with way too many unnecessary tangents that in my opinion didn’t add to the theme of the story. Also, the character development was not great. Unlike some of my favorite Neal Stephenson characters (like Bobby Shaftoe from Cryptonomicon), the characters in Fall seemed somewhat flat. I feel like I would have given the book more stars had it been more concise and had better character development. On to better things...    

Protect The Prince by Jennifer Estep
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * * 
Like the first book in this series, this one deserves 4 stars. This second book was actually a little bit better than the first one (Kill the Queen) and was another “guilty pleasure” summer read. While it still annoys me that magic is not done well (magic must have a limiting factor and must obey the basic laws of thermodynamics), nevertheless this was a book that I continued to read and couldn’t put down. I felt I learned a lot more about Evie (the main character) and how she dealt with being a queen in a foreign land. I cannot wait for the next book Crush the King to come out in March 2020 - I shall be reading that once it comes out.

Kill The Queen by Jennifer Estep
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * * 
I don’t typically read books like this (fantasy combined with a bit of romance), but this one really intrigued me. First of all, it has to do with “modern” medieval times, but better yet, it is a world run mostly by women. There is a queen, but no king, There are crown princesses, but no crown prince. Evie, the main character, is 17th in line for the throne, but her evil cousin, who is next in line for the crown, decides to conduct a massacre involving not only the queen, but the entire royal blood line to gain the throne. Evie manages to escape, and then joins a gladiator troop (run by women of course) to learn to fight to kill the false queen. What a great summer read. When finishing this book I immediately ordered the next book in the series, “Protect The Prince”.   

Legends & Lies: The Real West by David Fisher
3.5 stars * * *  
I really enjoyed reading about all of the western gunslingers and villains of the old west. In particular, I really enjoyed the chapters on Kit Carson, Black Bart, Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, Doc Holliday (my favorite chapter), Billy the Kid, and finally Butch Cassidy (my second favorite chapter). Lots of facts and less fiction made this a fun book to read about the real lives of these famous western figures. Good read if you like the wild, wild west like I do.

Revelation by Robert Knott
4.0 stars * * * * 
Unlike The Bridge (which I didn’t really care for), this book was great. Cole and Hitch are at it again, saving the world by tracking down a group of prison escapees. Full of action and plot twists, this was the kind of western I expect from the Robert B. Parker books. The characters came alive in this book, and the dialogue was awesome. There were some pretty gruesome scenes, so be ready for them (as true of the old west).   

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
4.0 stars * * * * 
This book had lots unexpected twists and betrayal in it, particularly at the end. What a good book. The world is divided into those with silver blood (having special human abilities), and those with red blood who served the silver blood people. The main character, a red blood, ends up having silver blood abilities, but better than those of the silver blood people. She ends up getting tangled up into the silver blood royalty, and from there it was a fast moving, fast-paced book of intrigue, betrayal, loyalty, and honor. Awesome summer read!

Half a War by Joe Abercrombie
Rating: 4.5 stars * * * * 
While this book was the closest thing to Game of Thrones out the three books in the Shattered Sea series, I gave it only 4.5 stars because I didn’t think the characterization was a strong as the first 2 books. The Skara character was good, and like Yarvi from book one and Thorn from book two, she has significant growth throughout the book. The book had two amazing twists - similar to the earlier Game of Throne books - that will leave you breathless (I won’t give it away). I thought both Thorn and Yarvi were not as strong characterization-wise in the third book (particularly Thorn, who was simply mad at everyone, the world, and simply wanted to just kill everyone. All in all it was an amazing end to the shattered sea series.   

Half a World by Joe Abercrombie
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * *
Yarvi’s journey continues in this book, along with one of my new favorite characters in all his books so far (Thorn). Book 2 is more about Thorn than about Yarvi, which suited me just fine because she is one of those characters that completely comes alive in this book. What an absolute amazing strong female character! I simply loved this book, couldn’t put it down, and finished it within a couple of days. Next up - the last book in this trilogy!

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * *
I first fell in love with Joe Abercrombie’s books when I read the First Law Trilogy (starting with The Blade Itself), so I was anxious to read this series (the Shattered Sea Trilogy). I was not disappointed. Definite 5 star material. I absolutely love the characters, and the story is a fascinating one. Yarvi’s growth from boy to man is done so well in this book, complete with hardships, adventures, twists, and plots. Can’t wait for book 2, which is next on my list. For those reviews that state this book is just like the Game of Thrones - yes, they were correct. 

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * *
I almost cried at the end of this book. I almost cried not because of the end, but because of the incredible journey the man and the boy had until the end. What a dark and disturbing book full of death, despair, ugliness, and human suffering. That said, it was also an awesome book so full of deep thoughts and meaning. By far my favorite Cormac McCarthy book. A must read. Maybe now the nightmares I’ve been having while reading this book will finally subside and I can get back to normal dreams again (whatever those are).

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
Rating: 4.5 stars * * * * 
This book started out sort of slow, but then grew into a book I could not put down for the life of me. The intertwining of the main characters Leesha, Arlen, and Rojer turned out to be quite a page-turner. While the magic in the book violated one of my core principles (magic must come from somewhere, have a limiting factor, and obey the basic laws of thermodynamics), nevertheless this book had me at every page. Things are fine during the day, but at night demons appear, chipping away at the human race. We used to fight them at one point, but those days are gone - or are they?… Amazing story!!! This is book one of a 5 book series called the demon cycle. I shall be reading more of these. But for now, it's on to The Road by Cormac McCarthy - what a great follow-on book to this one...

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * 
While I usually don’t read motivation or self-help books, my good friend Neal Ford recommend this to me, so I felt compelled to read it. I bounced between 3.5 and 4.0 stars, but eventually settled on 4.0 stars due to the number of pages I ended up marking due to some good insight or tip. The personification of Resistance bothered me at first, but I gradually came to enjoy it. This book is filled with all sorts of great tips for finding motivation to do things we so easily put off. My favorite was the section on rationalization as a thing resistance feeds on - a common think I do all the time. It was also a fairly quick read, and something I will likely continually reference.      

Why Religion? by Elaine Pagels
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * *
The first part of this book is truly amazing - 5 stars worthy, but alas, the book sort of falls a bit short on the last 3rd of the book, hence the 4 stars (I was initially going to rate it 3.5 stars, but the storytelling in the first part of the book was so amazing that I had to bump it up to 4 stars). I read this book because I was intrigued by the topic - why is religion still relevant in the 21st century? Through a personal account of a series of true-story tragedies (which are truly heart-wrenching) Elaine sets the stage to analyze why religion is still so important and prevalent in society, She discusses Freud’s theory that society embraces religion as a form of control over nature; if we are good and pray hard enough we can influence God’s will and control over certain events that us humans have no control over, as well as her own experiences that society embraces religion as hope and a way to understand both despair and death. This was a very though-provoking book, particularly the first two-thirds (there are even personal stories about Jerry Garcia in the book - how cool). However, the last couple of chapters were a bit too academic for me, and I felt it didn’t flow well with the personal nature of the first two-thirds of the book.      

God of Vengeance by Giles Kristian
Rating: 4.5 stars * * * *
Knowing my obsession with everything Viking, my good friend Alan Beaulieu (author of Learning SQL by O'Reilly) bought me this book for my birthday. Unlike the Bernard Cornwell Saxon series (see 2018 reading list), the setting in this book takes place in Norway rather than across the ocean in Northumbria. Sigurd's family is killed by a traitor king, and he is ready to seek out revenge, even through he is young and inexperienced in battle. Like Cornwell, the characters come to life in this book, and the action scenes are fantastic. This is book one of a three book series. Now it’s on to book 2, Winter’s Fire!! 

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