Reading List

Favorite Authors
Bernard Cornwell
Cormac McCarthy
Joe Abercrombie
Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Books I’ve Read (2022)

1356 by Bernard Cornwell
Rating: Currently Reading
Currently Reading…  

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Rating: 5.0 Stars * * * * *
What a fun and interesting book this was! It’s all about life in 1938 in Manhattan, New York, with a mixture of the very rich and the not-so-rich. It very much reminded me of The Great Gatsby, with Katey playing the narration role of Nick. Lots of colorful characters, and such a great and interesting ending. I really enjoyed this book!

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
Rating: 4.0 Stars * * * *
This is not a typical book I would usually read, but it was gifted to me and I read it during my vacation. Turns out it was actually really good. It’s a story of a somewhat dysfunctional family that has drifted apart due to lots of baggage and events from the past. The father has disappeared, and his wife has no idea where he can be. So she calls her adult children, and they all gather in England to figure out what happened to him. I really enjoyed the family histories and the dynamics and conversations between them as they are trying to unravel the mystery of the disappearing father. All of the family drama, baggage, and prior events come to light as they look for their father. The ending rather surprised me, so I’m anxiously awaiting for others to read this so I can discuss my theory about the ending of the book. Like Hamlet (her later book), the writing is really well done and the characters are great. 

Dodge City by Tom Clavin
Rating: 4.0 Stars * * * *
I was on vacation in the west coast when I ran across this book in a bookstore in Moab, Utah. I was intrigued because the author painstakingly navigated through all of the built up hype and myth surrounding the West, Dodge City, Wyatt Earp, and Bat Masterson. I loved the stories told in this book, and how it was written. At times I had to remind myself it wasn’t a novel! So well written, and lots of action (complete with gunfights, cowboys, and descriptions of the wild west).

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Rating: 5.0 Stars * * * * *
This book was a great retelling of the Iliad by Homer through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles friend. So full of detail, all the way from Achilles’ childhood to his unfortunate death. The book was beautifully written, and dives deep into the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. Having recently read The Iliad by Homer, I loved this book.

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
Rating: 5.0 Stars * * * * *
Simply put, this was an amazing book that I just couldn’t put down. It was so intense, and the characters we so well developed I felt  like I was living with them as part of my family. The story takes place in England in the late 1500’s, and the descriptions and settings described in the book matched the time period perfectly. Although you might think this book is about young Shakespeare,  it’s really about Agnus, his wife, and the trauma and difficulties she faces. As you might guess, back in the day Hamnet was another spelling and pronunciation of Hamlet, which not only refers to the play, but also Shakespeare’s son. I highly recommend this book!

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * *
This book is about a post-apocalyptic world where climate change has destroyed society, turning human beings into scavenging animals. The main character, Lauren, sees a better world through a new way of thinking she has created called Earthseed. This book reminded me a lot of “The Road” in the sense that a lot of the book is about Lauren’s journey outside of the safe walls of her neighborhood and the situations and people she encounters along her journey. I really enjoyed this book, although I felt the ending was sort of abrupt. I wanted to read more!

Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * * 
Oh my. What an amazing book, but also a dark and depressing journey. I love the way to book is structured, with 12 pages representing both the year that has passed since the opening chapter, and the fact that the story essentially takes place in a single day. I feel like this is one of those books that needs to be read twice to fully appreciate the deep prose and in some cases, sheer poetry of the text. I am amazed with the complexity of the Consul and his struggle with alcoholism. I also found Yvonne, his wife, a very interesting character in the book. I will definitely reread this book before the end of the year to gain a better understanding of all that is going on in it, and to ponder the many aspects of symbolism in the book (such as the horse with the number 7 branded on it’s leg). I found Hugh to be rather tedious, and sort of “extra” in the whole story, but I suppose he was needed to carry on some of the conversations. 

Sharpes Assassin by Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * *
I so much enjoyed this new installment to the original Sharpe series (one of my favorite series of all time). This book takes place just days after the Battle of Waterloo when the allied forces were about to march into Paris. Richard Sharpe, along with Harper, are sent ahead to rescue a spy and stop an inevitable assassination of the Duke of Wellington. This book was everything I expected from the original Sharpe series, and precedes Sharp’s Devil, the last book in the series. Great stuff! 

Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson
Rating: 1.0 star *
I had to give up on this book about 1/4 the way through because it just kept droning on about insignificant things and never really got to the point of the story. I started getting really bored with the book and the constant pointless tangents and descriptions of things. I really didn’t like the book at all.

The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * * 
I enjoyed this book so much. In the last of this series, the Union monarchy, fresh out of battle from the prior book, collapses and is taken over by the people. Meanwhile, Rikke has her own problems in the North, which is also under attack. I couldn’t help but see the close parallels with the Union problems and how America struggled in its beginnings as well to establish a new government. There were so many twists and turns in this book, but I won’t give them away. Needless to say, this Abercrombie book is well worth reading (but you have to read the previous 2 in this series to understand what’s going on).

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * * 
What an amazing story. So well written, and the characters were ones that I felt like I personally knew. Imagine a lost accent Greek story, and a timeline going from the late 1400’s in Constantinople all the way through the late 2050’s on a spacecraft heading toward a distant planet to revitalize civilization. That, and sprinkle in a little bit of Homer (The Odyssey). Sounds crazy I know, but it works so well. And the ending! Well, I won’t give to away, but all I can say is that you will be truly surprised. Each character comes alive and is intertwined in this story, and it all comes together. Definitely a great read, one that kept me awake through the long winter nights while reading this book. 

Books I’ve Read (2021)

The Every by Dave Eggers
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * * 
While this book got not-so-great reviews, I actually enjoyed it. This was a follow-up book to the “Circle”. The end really surprised me, and the prediction about what could possibly happen if society were controlled by bad-idea apps was both entertaining and scary. I thought Delany’s rotation got a bit long and somewhat overdone, and I didn’t like the unbelievable transformation of Wes her friend. Overall an entertaining read and a cautionary take about how not to completely destroy society. 

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
Rating: 3.5 stars * * *
The “high five” are at it again, this time a quest to seek the seven shards of the siren’s song.While parts of the book were good, I was generally disappointed in the book. I didn’t like the beginning (almost gave up at page 70, but then it got much better), and there was WAY too much 80’s movie and song trivia that didn’t interest me that much. The ONI headset theme was good, and was what kept my interest going. The end was a bit like Lawnmower Man, and a little hard to grasp. Definitely not as good as the first book.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Rating: 2.0 stars * * 
I actually only made it half-way through the book, then I had to put it down. This book for some reason didn’t resonate with me. I couldn’t get into the plot, and the characters weren’t very interesting to me. I also thought the writing and dialog was a bit cheesy - maybe it was because I started reading this immediately after Homer’s Iliad, which was such incredible verse for the telling of a war story. I also didn’t like the bouncing back and forth between Miller and Holden. Just as I would get into the Holden part of the story, it would shift to Miller, who I found a bit boring. Nevertheless, I might pick it back up at a later time, but as they say, so many books, so little time, and there are way too many great books that I was anxious to read. 

The Iliad by Homer
Rating: 4.5 Stars * * * * 
When I mentioned to people that I was reading The Iliad, they sort of looked at me funny and wondered if I was back in school doing a required reading assignment. A friend of mine read it, was telling me about it, and I fell in love with the story as she was recounting the highlights, so decided to read it finally. I wasn’t disappointed. While it wasn’t an easy story to read, it was so rewarding. The verse form was full of very poetic material, which is quite amazing for a war and battle story. I loved the verse towards the end of the book (verse 874): “…down to this very day the gods prefer old-timers”. Ha! That means I’m blessed! Definitely a commitment to undergo reading it, but well worth the effort.

Tech Stress by Erik Peper, PhD
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * * 
It’s hard to rate a non-fiction book, so I gave it 5 stars based on the significance of the topic and how deep it was covered. This book is a must-read for anyone in IT or a job that carries a lot of stress with it. So many great tips about ways to avoid stress, and a really good explanation of the science behind all of it. While many of the tips were common sense, the authors backed up those common and obvious techniques with the WHY part of how they work and what the chemical impact is on the body. My favorite chapters were chapter 7 on our obsession with our cell phones, and chapter 18 on ways of coping with burnout. A great book!

Mr Penumbras 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Rating: 3.5 stars * * * 
While the mystery within this book was somewhat intriguing, it didn’t interest me enough to make this one of the good reads of the year. However, one thing I did take away from this book: sometimes, there is joy in the process of doing something, as opposed to achieving the outcome. Mr. Penumbra has a very interesting bookstore indeed, which leads to unfolding a mystery about secret codes and messages buried within the books Mr. Penumbra keeps in his store. With the use of technology, the main character (with the help of his friends at Google) uncover the mystery. I was a little disappointed with the ending of the book, but all around an interesting read.

Servant of the Crown by Duncan M. Hamilton
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * * 
This book picks up right where the other one left off. There were some surprise elements in this book, particularly at the end. As a matter of fact, I only had 4 chapters left, and dragged out reading the ending because I figured it was relatively predictable. I was wrong. The ending really added an interesting twist, one I in fact did not predict. Overall, this was a good three-book series that I very much enjoyed. Not great literature, but a good story with some interesting characters. 

Knight of the Silver Circle by Duncan M. Hamilton
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * * 
This book was a little slower than the first one, but I still very much enjoyed it. The interplay between the treacherous Amaury, Solene, and Guillot was great. We see a lot more about Guillot’s character transformation in this book. The action at the end was really good, but the book just…simply ended. If you are going to read this book, you will be required to read the third book in the series to find out what happens, as the third book is really a continuation of the story. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was some inconsistency with one of the main characters, Solene. I got really confused about halfway through the book with regards to some of the things Solene was thinking and doing, and had to go back to the beginning to see if I missed something. I don’t think her character was a developed in this book as the first one.

Dragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * * 
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. This was a great read, and I love the main character Guillot. The aspect of magic in this book was done well, and the dragon aspect was equally done well - not overdone, not "yet another silly dragon book". Can’t wait to read the others in this series! 

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * * 
This was such an amazing book! I simply could not put this book down. It’s hard to write a good review of this book without giving it away, so let me just say this: read this book! A struggling writer does the unthinkable and steals a plot from one of his students. It has a plot within a plot within a plot, and the ending will blow you away.

The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * * 
Wow, what a GREAT book. This was a follow-up to the other book I loved, A Little Hatred. Things ended with peace after that book, but now, not everyone is happy, and war is brewing between the Union and other countries. My favorite characters actually switched in this book form the other one - Savine became my favorite character, and Rikki not so much. Joe Abercrombie once again did a great job describing conflict, betrayal, and a surprise ending. Can’t wait for the next one in this series!

The Only Life That Mattered by James L. Nelson
Rating: 4.5 stars * * * *  
This book was in novel form about the real accounts of Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and “Calico Jack” Rackam. It was so well done and so well-written that I simply could not put this book down. Anne Bonny and Mary Read were real woman pirates who joined the “sweet trade” - a short life but a merry one. The stories, battles, and conflict were extremely well done. If you are interested in prates, then this book is a must read.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * * 
This book was very much like “The Martian”. Alone in a spacecraft, Ryland Grace must figure out how to survive alone and save the world. I won’t give anything away in this review, but I very much enjoyed the story, as well as all of the science (and science fiction as well). The technical descriptions and application of astrophysics was very detailed and spot-on. Although a few parts of the book were a little far-fetched in terms of reality, overall I found this book a very enjoyable and captivating read.

The Best of Roald Dahl by Roald Dahl
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * * 
What an amazing collection of short stories! I simply could not put this book down. There are so many favorites out of the 25 stories in the book they are too numerous to mention, but some of them that I absolutely must call out were “Dip in the Pool”, "Parson’s Pleasure”, “Royal Jelly”, “The Sound Machine”, and “Taste”. However, ALL of the stories are a must read. Each story ends in some sort of cleaver and unexpected twist. 

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * *
I very much enjoyed this second book in the series. I felt the characters came alive a little bit better than in Wolf Hall (the first book), and it was a little more interesting. Like Wolf Hall, there was an amazing amount of plotting, treachery, deceit, and intrigue. I found it amazing how allegiances so strongly formed in the first book can end up with one losing their head (literally!). 

Wolf Hall
 by Hilary Mantel
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * *
This book is beautifully written and tells, through dialogue, the life of Thomas Cromwell and King Henry VIII through the early 1500’s when Henry, dissatisfies with Queen Katherine for not producing a male heir, wants an annulment in order to marry Anne Boleyn. It is full of history, politics, influence, and power, and tells the story of King Henry VIII’s conflict with the Catholic Church. I’m anxious to move on to the second book, which tells about King Henry VIII’s rampage in beheading those he is disappointed with (including Anne Boleyn, his new wife). 

Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy
Rating: 4.5 stars * * * * 
The conversations between John Grady, Billy, Mac, and all the other characters is pure magic. On the outside they might seem like meaningless prattle, but they get to the heart of the character and paint a vivid picture of life as a cowboy and ranch hand. John Grady has a simple but happy life as a horse trainer on a ranch, but tries to enter into a life he is not by falling in love with a woman in Mexico - a woman way out of his reach. Things get ugly as John tries to leave his simple life and enter into the life of thugs and debauchery. The ending is particularly intense, bringing this trilogy to an unexpected end. 

The Pirate Round by James L. Nelson
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * * 
This was one of the best books in the 3-part Brethren of the Coast series. Marlowe sets out for London with his trusted crew to ship tobacco, only to be spotted as the notorious pirate Barrett (Marlowe's prior life). Barely escaping with their lives, they forgo their precious tobacco cargo and head off to Madagascar for the pirate round to make their fortunes as pirates and recover their losses. Little did they know danger awaits them at every turn. Such a wonderful book about pirating and surviving during the early 1700’s on the high seas. Totally 5 stars for this book!

The Blackbirder by James L. Nelson
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * *
There was so much happening in this book! While the slavery theme bothered me greatly, the story itself was absolutely amazing. The year is 1701, and Marlowe’s comrade-in-arms, King James, stumbles upon a slaver ship (in those times called a “Blackbirder”)  near the Virginia coast and murders the entire crew in an outrage (King James being a prior slave himself, but freed by Marlowe). Now a fugitive, King James frees all of the slaves aboard the blackbirder and sets off to Africa to return the slaves aboard the ship back to their home. Sounds easy, but it was not. Full of intrigue and piracy on the high seas, in Africa, and also at Marlowe's plantation in Virginia. A fast and interesting read. Now onto book three of the series!

The Guardship by James L. Nelson
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * * 
I read this book about 20 years ago when it first came out, and absolutely loved it. I was thinking back on this book and realized how much of the story and the main character (Thomas Marlowe) I’d forgotten, so I decided to put on my sword and red sash, and enter back into the world of pirates I so much enjoy reading about. This book takes place around 1700 in the Virginia colony, where planting tobacco and rising to high social circles was so much part of the life in those times. Thomas gets on the wrong side of a prominent Williamsburg family, and they set out to destroy him. However, so does the notorious pirate LaRoche, who has just sailed into the waters off Chesapeake Bay. Such a fun and fast story, complete with great characterization and great naval battles. I highly recommend this book! Now onto book two of the series...

What Tech Calls Thinking by Adrian Daub
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * * 
Very interesting read about the “big tech” industry and Silicon Valley in general. Each chapter introduces a major figure in literature, philosophy, and phycology and draws parallels between that person’s thinking and ideas and how “big tech” essentially gained its success by “riding on the shoulders of giants”. Daub postulates there are very few innovative and fresh ideas in tech - that they all come from others in unrelated fields. Being in tech, I am not in full agreement with all his ideas, but he does draw some fascinating parallels. My favorite chapter was “Disruption”, then “Failure”, and finally “Communication”. 

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020 by Diana Gabaldon
Rating: Overall 3.5 Stars * * * 
Given this is a collection of 20 short stories, I really couldn’t give the overall book a star rating. There were many stories I really enjoyed (such as Life Sentence, Bullet Point, The Bookstore at the End of America, and Up From Slavery) and there were some I really didn’t like at all. Most of the stories made me think I was reading something from The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, or Black Mirror and had that sort of clever twist or clever concept that made those shows so fun to watch. Overall an enjoyable read.

Crimson Shore  by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Rating: 2.0 stars * * 
Agent Pendergast is hired to investigate the theft of a 2 million dollar wine collection, only to uncover a surprising secret about the towns past. This leads to murders in the town, with further uncovers even larger dark secret about the towns past. Sprinkle in a bit of poorly defined characters, witchcraft, demons (really?), and it all spells…confusion. This book is a good example of what is known as the “witches brew” anti-pattern - a ransom collection of ideas poorly integrated, resulting in a non-cohesive book. The book should have stopped at around page 293 when the original mystery was solved - and if it did, I would have given this book 3 stars. However, the last 60 pages were totally absurd and had nothing to do with the book or the mystery. If you are a Pendergast fan, I would strongly urge you to skip this book entirely. Not a bad mystery story (hence the 2 stars) but horribly put together with an end that was one of the worse book endings in my reading experience. 

War Lord by Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * * 

What a great conclusion to this wonderful saxon viking series. Both the south (Englaland) and the north (the Scots) have their sights set on conquering Northumbria (the final link to a unified England), and Uthred once again gets involved in conflict and battle. Cornwell did such an amazing job spelling out this final conflict in clear and vivid terms. I won’t give away the end, but it was indeed spectacular. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Uthred and his adventures, but I’ll certainly be revisiting him again in a couple of years when I reread this entire 13 book series form start to end again.     

Golden Son by Pierce Brown
Rating: 3.5 stars * * *  
Betrayal - multifaceted betrayal of the worse kind. This second book of the Red Rising trilogy started out great and ended even better, but the middle was very disappointing. A bunch of kids commanding starships and ordering adult commanders around was a bit too much for me, and at one point I almost considered not completing this book. But I held on, kept reading, and I was glad I did. The last 80 pages of this book were amazing - reminiscent of his first book Red Rising. I did not care for the war scenes in the middle of the book, nor the interaction between the characters, particularly Sevro. It was almost like the author took great care in writing the first part and the last part of the book, and just slapped the middle together in a rush to get the book out. That said, the last part of the book was great. I’ll be taking a little break from the trilogy to read other things, but based on the ending of the book I’ll definitely be reading the third book in this series.  

Books I’ve Read (2020)

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * *
One of the indications of a 5 star book is that it's 2:30am you finally tell yourself that you need to put the book down so you can get some sleep. That was this book. In the distant future civilization is divided into colors - red being to lowest in the hierarchy, gold being the highest. Darrow, a red, lives with a community of workers under the surface of Mars, mining helium-3 to terraform Mars for future generations. Except… all is not what it seems. This wonderful book is a cross between Ender’s Game and The Hunger Games. I just simply could not put this book down. Full of action, sadness, vengeance, and everything in-between, this is a book you simply must read. This is book one of a three book series. Now onto book two, Golden Son.   

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * *
I really liked Monza (the main character in the book) and her overall transformation throughout the book. One of the best-known assassins, she is betrayed by her employer and left for dead. She miraculously survives, and goes about seeing vengeance for her killers. This book is full of betrayal, plot twists, and an interesting set of characters. The story, while good, dragged on a bit and got a bit tiresome towards the end. I didn’t really care for the war scene towards the end of the book - it really didn’t fit with the personal vendetta part of the story, and the story got a bit confusing about how people ended up one one side of the country one day, and the next at the battleground on the other side of the land the next day. Overall, a good and entertaining story, with strong, multi-dimensional characters.  

Crooked River by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * *
After reading The Labyrinth of the Spirit I felt I needed to read something a little lighter, so I decided to read the most recent Pendergast book. Being a big fan of Preston and Child (and in particular the Pendergast books), I wasn’t disappointed in the least. I really liked this book. It moved exceptionally well and continued to keep my interest, well into the night. Constance Greene played a big role in this book, particularly towards the end of the book (no spoilers though). The thing I liked most about this book is the way the mystery unfolds, with the final twist not being revealed until the very end of the story. 

Tales of the Wild West Vol. 1 - 9 by Rick Steber
Rating: 3.5 stars * * * 

I picked up this 9 volume author-signed gem at a used bookstore in Colorado Springs, and really enjoyed these stores. Each volume has stories within the context of a particular topic (Oregon Trail, Miners, Loggers, Pacific Coast, etc.) that the author captured through journals, newspaper articles, and other similar sources. The stories are short one-page anecdotes that are sometimes amusing, sometimes sad. The thing I really liked about the series is that it provided a good perspective into what is was like living in the wild west. Most of the stories surround Oregon and the Pacific Coast rather than the rough-and-tumble western desert (with the exception of the “Cowboys” volume. Even through some of the stories were a little silly, all-in-all a fun and enjoyable read.

The Labyrinth of the Sprits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * *
This book made me laugh, smile, frown, and cry. An amazing book, all 800 pages of it. This book brought together the entire story of the Semperes (and Carax) and all of the mystery and intrigue that surrounded Barcelona during that time period (early 1900’s and through the war, eventually leading up to the 1990’s). While Fermin remains one of my favorite characters through the 4 book series, enter Alicia Gris, a character I shall never forget. Tough and no-nonsense, but with a fragility that works so well with her character. While the first book in this series (Shadow of the Wind) will always be my favorite, this book comes close (or ties) with first place.     

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Rating: 5.0 stars * * * * *
I very much enjoyed this third installment of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. This book dives into the mysterious history of Fermin, one of my favorite characters in the series. There are many flashbacks to the first book (The Shadow of the Wind) as well as the second (The Angel’s Game), so while it’s not required, I would strongly recommend reading those ones first. I liked this book much better than The Angel’s Game - much more concrete. The author introduces another character in this book, one that The Labyrinth of Spirits is about (Valls).    

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Rating: 4.5 Stars * * * *
I’ve seen the movie The Princess Bride 6 times so far, and finally decided to read the book (the classic one, complete with hardcover, antique pages, and so on). I had heard that the book was a little different from the movie, and those tales were true. The main scenes were the same as the movie, but the book has much more to offer - additional chapters, narrative from William Goldman about what was skipped in the abridged version, and some extra chapters at the end that were not in the movie. It certainly helped seeing the movie first, because I was able to visualize Billy Crystal as “Miracle Max”, which was perfect, and also all the other characters in the book. Awesome stuff! 


The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Rating: 4.5 Stars * * * * 
What an intense book. Like The Shadow of the Wind, this book was about David Martin, a writer who essentially loses his mind, and was filled with tons of interesting plot twists, action, suspense, and intrigue. The ending was a bit confusing, so much so that I am going to re-read the last couple of chapters to fully understand what happened at the end. I rated it only 4.5 stars rather than a full 5 only because I didn’t think it had quite the same poetic and flowing prose and character development as The Shadow of the Wind. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am realizing that Carlos Ruiz Zafon may end up on my favorite authors list. I’m anxious to read the next two books in the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” series.


Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Rating: 4.0 Stars * * * *  
By far the darkest book I’ve read from Cormac McCarthy. This book painted a picture of the West, but rather than the “riding off into the sunset” romanticism about the wild west, it painted a picture of the West as filled with mindless violence and savagery. While I really enjoyed the writing style and the characters (especially the Kid and the Judge), I couldn’t quite get over the amount of violence and mistrust between people. Maybe it reminded me too much of our current bifurcated society we live in. Regardless, this book certainly came alive and had well-developed characters. If you read it, be prepared for a high body count...

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Rating: 5.0 Stars * * * * * 

What an amazing book! My good friend Alan Beaulieu (author of Learning SQL) recommended this book to me. I was so captivated by the wonderful style of writing and the great characterization (the fact that the setting is in Barcelona really helped as well). This book had numerous twists and turns, and kept me interested until the very last page. It was so good that I immediately ordered the other 3 books in this “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” series. Fermin was my favorite character in the book. A must read!


A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie
Rating: 5
.0 Stars * * * * * 
I was originally hesitant to read this book when I first saw it, just because the description on the back cover didn’t interest me so much. I was so wrong. I should have known better since I given almost every one of Joe Abercrombie's books I’ve read 5 stars. I didn’t even hesitate for an instant to give this one another 5 star rating. The story and characters were amazing in this book. The book intertwines the stories and adventures of 5 main characters as their lives continue to intersect in interesting ways. What an incredible book! I am looking very forward to book 2 in this series when in comes out in September 2020.

The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim et. al.
Rating: 4.5
 Stars * * * *  
I finally got around to reading The Phoenix Project after hearing so much about it, and now I am mad at myself for waiting so long to read it. This book is a must-read for anyone in IT. Having lived many of the scenarios described in the book, I almost felt like it was a busman’s holiday reading it. There were times the book got so intense I had to actually put it down because I felt like I was responsible for fixing one of the many outages described in the book! All-in-all an excellent read about the perils of IT projects. If you haven’t read it yet, please do so right away.

Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell
4.0 Stars * * * * 
I fell in love with the history of the battle of Waterloo after reading the Sharpe series by Cornwell many, many years ago. This book is very similar to Sharpe’s Waterloo, only dives into much more of the detail about the logistics, planning, troop positions, and the battle itself. Being a fan of the battle, I really enjoyed this book. 

Innovation On Tap by Eric B. Shultz
4.0 Stars * * * * 
What a great concept - take twenty-three of the nations greatest innovators from Eli Whitney to Lin-Manuel Miranda and have them all meet at a bar to tell their stories. Eric organizes these twenty-three stories into five progressive themes: mechanization, mass production, consumerism, sustainability, and digitization, and then ties all of them together into the final theme of social and cultural entrepreneurship. My favorite story in the book was that of Alfred Sloan, with Eli Whitney’s story my second favorite and Mary Elizabeth Evans Sharpe my third favorite. I really like how Eric relates all of the stories to an underlying theme - the stronger the community, the greater the chance of success. All-in-all a really good book, with lots of history, stories, and lessons learned from some of the best innovators in the nation. 

The Outsider by Stephen King
Rating: 4.0 Stars * * * * 

I usually don’t read a lot of Stephan King novels, but my good friend recommended this to me and, unlike other King novels, I was not disappointed. I really liked the character Holly, but felt Ralph fell a little flat from a characterization standpoint. That said, the action was great and the “murder mystery” part of it kept me going. Like most books I read, the ending was a bit disappointing, but I’ll have to admit the end wasn’t as drawn out as in other King books I’ve read. I read some reviews about the “ridiculous alien stuff at the end”, but I would have to disagree - I thought for once the whole King “supernatural” thing wasn’t drawn out in this book as in his other books (such as Under The Dome - ugh.) and was tastefully done. All-in-all a great and moving “lockdown” read.

Reamde by Neal Stephenson
Rating: 2.5 Stars * * 
My favorite Neal Stephenson books hands-down are Seveneves and Cryptonomicon. This one doesn’t even come close to that list. I really didn’t care much for this book, and I figured out why about half-way through - characterization. I didn’t like the characterization of Richard, and especially Peter. Not surprisingly, I didn’t care for Fall either, which was the follow-on book to this one (same character - Richard). The Peter character was off from the very opening family reunion scene with the target shooting - it didn’t match the rest of his “IT geek” persona throughout the rest of the book. The action was pretty good, which is why I bumped it up to 2.5 stars. Overall - meh.      

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
5.0 Stars * * * * *
This book was amazing. Cormac McCarthy is quickly becoming one of my top five authors, so be prepared to see more of his books appear on my list in the coming months. This story, while not quite as dark as The Road, still has plenty of human suffering and adventure in it. The story follows 3 boys (teenagers) as they set off from Texas on horseback to find adventure across the border in Mexico in the 1930’s. And adventure they do find, both good and bad. Not giving anything away (because it’s on the back cover of the book), but their adventures are indeed paid for with blood. McCarthy does such a good job with the settings and characters in Mexico that I felt I was actually there while reading the book.   

Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 4.5 Stars * * * *

This 12th book in the Saxon Series started out slow, but picked up significantly, particularly the last third of the book. I got very confused in the beginning of the book about all of the players vying to be the next king of Wessex, East Anglia, and Mercia. And, as you can guess, Uthred gets in the middle of all the politics. Uthred almost met his match in this book, but, as Bernard Cornwell is find of saying, he will live to see yet another adventure. Northumbria, Uthred’s home, is still up for grabs as the last kingdom still under Danish rule - but for how long??

The Bone Ships by RJ Barker
Rating: 4.5 Stars * * * *

This epic fantasy novel took a while for me to read, but it was worth it. I’ll admit it was hard getting used to the gender of the ships and crew - ships are named “he”, and the captain a “shipwife” (regardless of the captain’s gender). The book had plenty of action, and I loved the characters Joron and “Lucky Meas”. Barker created an interesting world in the book filled with war, treason, and, in the end, morality. A long read, but a good one. 

Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows
Rating: 3.5 Stars * * *
The first half of this book was great. Such a good explanation of systems theory and the factors that go into a system. I felt the last part of the book was a little drawn out, not adding much more to the book than what the first half did. I would recommend this book for anyone working as a software architect in the IT field as it helps understand how everything fits together and interacts.  

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike
Rating: 4.5
 Stars * * * * 
This novel is an account of sixth-century Scotland, specifically focusing around Languoreth, who eventually became Queen of Strathclyde, and her brother Lailoken, a “Wisdom Keeper” of the Old Ways who is thought by some scholars to be Merlin from the Arthurian era. I particularly liked this book for several reasons - first, I like anything about the Medieval times. Second, Pike did a great job describing the difficulty women had during that era. Third, Pike did a great job showing the struggles and conflicts between the Old Ways and the rise of Christianity during those times. There was plenty of treason, murder, blood, intrigue, hardship, and everything else that represented the Medieval era. Being a novel, Pike weaved in a bit of romance in the book as well, something I found I was able to tolerate because it wasn’t overplayed. Overall a fascinating book. Be sure to read the authors notes at the end of the book!

Books I’ve Read (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!! 

Books I’ve Read (2018) 

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * *
This alternative-history book kept me going non-stop. The civil war never happened, and slavery is still legal in 4 states (called the “hard four”). Full of adventure with an interesting twist at the end, this book explores the social and economic issues and horrors of slavery as it would be in modern times. The book focuses on the main character from the U.S. Marshals Office as he tries to locate a runner from the south, while at the same dealing with the inner conflict of having been a slave once himself. A very thought-provoking book.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Rating: 4.5 stars * * * *
This was an incredibly interesting and intense book. An interstellar journey to a nearby planetary system (Rakhat) with a cast of unlikely characters starts out as a wondrous journey, ending in total disaster. While I would classify this book as science fiction, it is also filled with social themes and religious themes. What a ride reading this book. “Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it” - Matthew 10, verse 29. “But the sparrow still falls” - Felipe Reyes (one of the characters in the book). Lots of religious aspects to think about in this book. The story of Emilio Sandoz (the main character in the book) will haunt me for quite some time - it is quite disturbing. 

The Bridge by Robert Knott
Rating: 2.5 stars * * * 
This was not one of my favorite Cole and Hitch books from the series. The book didn’t flow well, felt sort of choppy, and at times got a little boring due to the lack of action. The ending was clever and unexpected, pushing it up to 2.5 stars. It was through this book that I noticed the difference in writing style between Robert B. Parker and Robert Knott. While I thought Robert Knott did a good job with Blackjack, I think he missed the boat mimicking the clever and effective Robert B. Parker dialogue and writing style.

Resolution by Robert B. Parker
Rating: 4.5 stars * * * *
I so very much enjoy the adventures of Cole and Hitch, and this 2nd book in the Cole and Hitch series did not disappoint me in the least. What a fun and fast read! I love the setting, I love the characters, I love the dialogue, and I love the action. Although I’ve read Appaloosa and Blackjack first, it wasn’t an issue at all reading this series out of order. Awesome book!!! Reading The Bridge next - can’t get enough.

The Covenant of Genesis by Andy McDermott
Rating: 1 star *
I’ve been anxious to read this book for a while and finally got to it, only to find it one of the most disappointing books I’ve read all year so far. The story sounded like a good one - an archeological discovery that could change everything we know about human history but was lethally protected by a group known as “the Covenant of Genesis”. However, I wasn’t able to even enjoy the story because of the ridiculous and weak 3rd grade level dialogue, incredibly shallow characters, and a habit in the book of taking strong, professional women and turning them into weak, shriveling, male-dependent characters. Yuck. Got half-way through and finally gave up. I’ve better things to do with my time than waste it on bad novels like this one.

City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Rating: 4.5 stars * * * *
What a fast moving and interesting crime drama! In this Pendergast series, Agent D’Garza and Pendergast must try to solve a series of decapitations in New York City - only this time the murders have Pendergast stumped. With a fast-paced cat-and-mouse ending that will be sure to get your heart racing, this book is a real page-turner you will be sure to enjoy. 

The Pharaoh Key by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Rating: 4.5 stars * * * *
As with most of Preston and Childs books, this was an amazing story that kept me up until 2am most nights. The Pharaoh Key is the latest book in the Gideon Crew series that takes us to the most remote place in Egypt. What Gideon and Garza find there is truly amazing in many ways. A definite read whether you are a Preston and Child fan or not. 

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 4.0 stars * * * *
This stand-alone historically accurate novel is about the playhouses and theater in Elizabethan England around the 1580’s. The book details the early history of theater, specifically surrounding William Shakespeare (the playwright) and his brother Richard (the player). If you like Shakespeare as I do, then you will enjoy this book. True to all Cornwell books, the characters in this book all come to life. The conflict in the book is that the play “Romeo and Juliet” is stolen by another playhouse, and Richard must work to steal it back. true to a great narrative arc, the story eventually reaches a climax, and ends nicely, bringing everything together in a great ending.   

Sand by Hugh Howey
Rating: 3.5 stars * * *
This was an interesting story with a great setting - a world covered in sand. Very similar to Waterworld (a world covered by ocean). While the story (and in particular the ending) was good, I felt the characters were a bit shallow, with the possible exception of Vic (my favorite character in the book). The book focuses on one particular family, but does not dive into the economic, social, and political aspects of a world covered in sand (hence the 3.5 stars). The diving concept the author describes is pretty cool, and a must for a story like this.  

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
Rating: 4.5 stars * * * *

There were lots of twists, turns, and surprises in this 3rd book of the First Law trilogy. While I thoroughly enjoyed this third book, I only gave it 4.5 stars because I didn’t care for the ending. There were too many loose ends, and it left me wanting a 4th book to tie everything together. All of the separate stories in the second book came together in this book, which added to the collective adventures and actions of the main characters. All-in-all, I would highly recommend this trilogy.

Rocky Mountain Boom Town by Duane A. Smith
Rating: 3.5 stars * * *

I was on vacation in Colorado and spent some time in Durango, and fell in love with the town, so being a history buff I had to get this book to learn more about Durango, CO. While the book was well written and detailed, I was left disappointed in that I was hoping for more about the wild west and mining stories. Durango started as a “rival train town” to Animas City when the D&RG railroad came through the area, and then became a bustling city focused on smelting. While there were plenty of historical facts in the book, I was hoping for more lengthy anecdotal stories, hence the 3.5 stars. I found the earlier history sections in the book (1880’s) much more interesting than later times (1950’s). Still, a wonderful and detailed account of how Durango, CO came to be (and how much influence the railroad had at that time!). 

Black Holes and Baby Universes by Stephen Hawking
Rating: 4 stars * * * *
While I love everything about astronomy and astrophysics, one of the best parts of this book was actually the beginning where Stephen Hawking wrote about his childhood and upbringing. This book is a collection of essays and talks Stephen Hawking has done over the years. Very interesting and deep stuff. 

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
Rating: 5 stars  * * * * *

This is book 2 of the First Law Series, and what an awesome book! The book takes 3 story lines - Glokta and Vitali in one, Logen, Bayaz, Ferro, and Luther in another, and finally Colonel West, the Dogman, Threetrees, and the rest of the Northmen in the last, and weaves a great narrative between them. The characters are so alive in this book, and the story is great (particularly the quest Logen and Bayaz undertake). Interestingly enough, none of the stories really end in the book, but rather continue on in book 3 (currently reading). If you enjoyed Game of Thrones and the Broken Earth Series (Jemisin), then you will love this series. 

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Rating: 5 stars  * * * * *
This is book one of the First Law Series. My friend Bruce Tate (technical author) was the one who turned me onto this book years ago, and I finally got around to reading it. What in the world was I waiting for! This was an amazing book. I loved the characters, the story, the setting, pretty much everything. The jacket cover does not do justice to the intriguing story that unfolds in this book. I’d have to say my 2 favorite characters in the book are Logen the Northern Barbarian and Glokta the Inquisitor. I don’t know enough about Bayaz yet, but I am guessing I’ll find out more in book 2, which is next on my reading list. If you enjoyed the Game of Thrones, you will love this book. I didn’t hesitate in the least to give this a 5 star rating (usually reserved for Bernard Cornwell, my favorite author).

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Rating: 3 stars * * *
While this book kept me interested, it wasn’t one of my my favorite Neal Stephenson books. I really enjoyed the 2 main characters (Hiro and especially Y.T.) and the adventures they got themselves into, but the story was a little hard to follow. I found out later that this was originally meant as a graphic novel, which explains why the story didn’t flow as well as other Neal S. books.  

Robert B. Parker’s Blackjack by Robert Knott
Rating: 4 stars * * * *
I love watching westerns (one of my favorite genres), but rarely I read them. This book caught my eye at a book sale, and figured it would be a good light summer read. I was not disappointed in the least. This book follows the adventures of Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch from Appaloosa on an adventure to first track and then later defend a murderer. This book is full of action and interesting twists of events, making it hard to put it down. I’ll most certainly be reading more Cole and Hitch novels this summer!

The Flame Bearer by Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 5 stars * * * * *
What an exciting end to the current Saxon series of books (the historical note indicates that Utrhed’s adventures are not quite over yet - can’t wait for more of this series!). Definitely a solid 5 star rating. Like the other books, this one is full of deep characters, great battles, and, in this book, the most cunning battle strategy I’ve read in a long time. Without giving too much away, Utrhed finds himself in despair, with little or no hope of survival or success, but comes up with a plan that just might work.  

Warriors of the Storm by Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 5 stars * * * * *
It just keeps getting better! Utrhed is healed and has his best battles ever in this book, It is about battles, honor, and… family. We learn more about Uthred’s daughter, and like George R.R. Martin, the female characters end up being the strongest. An amanzing book, amazing battles, and amazing relationships. As good as the Empty Throne, my prior favorite in the series. A must read!!! 

The Empty Throne by Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 5 stars * * * * *
This is book 8 of the Saxon series, and by far the best book in the 10 book series so far. The character development is just amazing, and the action is supurb. With all that is happening, it’s hard to believe there are only 2 more books to go. 

The Art of War by Sun Tzu (Sunzi)
Rating: 5 stars * * * * *
Ted Neward turned me on to this book about 7 years ago, and because I do so many quotes from it in my talks I thought I would read it again as a refresher. The book consists of 13 chapters, and this time around I chose to really study it rather than simply read it. I took one chapter at a time, paid close attention to every word, and thought about the chapter for a while before moving onto the next one. While I am certainly not going to be leading armies into battle, as a software architect I do have to negotiate with stakeholders and lead development teams through the implementation of my architectures, which is similar in a way as leading troops into battle. This book gives me lots of insite into negotiating business deals and dealing with stakeholders. A definite worthwhile read into forming overall strategies for engagement.   

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Rating: 5 stars * * * * *
This is my second reading of Seveneves, and one of my favorite Neal Stephenson books (Cryptonomicon being my other favorite). Because I’ve been traveling so much I decided to read this again on my long trips, and I’m so glad I did. This is really 2 books in one, but part 1 is my absolute favorite (part 2 is okay, but not nearly as good as part 1). I gave this 5 stars because part 1 is actually 7 stars, and part 2 only 3 stars, which makes the book as a whole 5 stars. The way Neal Stephenson describes in detail the physics and dynamics of cosmic events is amazing, and the characters are deep and well developed. A must-read for any Neal Stephenson fan.   

Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons
Rating: 4 stars * * * *
Ok, so it might seem weird that I include this sort of book in my reading list, but if you like bitters then this is a must read. Bitters consist of herbs or fruit (or anything) infused using high proof alcohol, with only a few drops used to enhance the flavor of the drink (e.g. Manhattan, Old Fashioned). The first half of the book goes into the history of bitters (which was fascinating), and also has a whole section about how to make your own bitters. The second half of the book contains tons of recipes for drinks containing bitters, which starts the creative juices flowing for making your own bitters drinks (my favorite is a classic margarita with smoked chili bitters - amazing).  

WOOL by Hugh Howey
Rating: 4 stars * * * * 
I’ve been wanting to read WOOL for a long time, and finally got to it. An amazing book about an apocolyptic modern-day earth consisting of underground silos where communities live. It is about the eventual breakdown of a controlled and overly-governed society, with plenty of action. The author goes into sufficient detail to really get a picture of life in underground silos. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It shares some similarities to the Hunger Games trilogy about controlled society and those that choose to fight that sort of society rather than live in it. I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because of the ending and lack of deep character development - although the ending was full of action, I felt it didn’t match the rest of the book and seemed a bit hokey to me (as most book ending do unfortunately). Furthermore, there was a part about a “governing body” overseeing all of the silos that was mentioned about 4/5th of the way through the book that was changed at the end to a group of kids - that part didn’t make much sense to me as the “governing body” concept disappeared after one page. Still, a fun and worthwhile read.    

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
Rating: 5 stars * * * * *
This is the third book in the awesome broken earch trilogy that my friend 
Neal Ford turned me onto. Jemisin’s writing style is fantastic, and the world she creates in this series is extremely well done. While the book started out a little slow and confusing, it picked up quickly, explaining the stone eaters and making for an amazing conclusion to the triogy (in particular, the last chapter and the following acknowledgements). I would highly recommend all three books in this trilogy. Jemisin’s style of writing combined with the characters and the world she has created makes this book (and the whole series) a solid 5 stars. What I first through as a “final great sci-fi/fantasy book in an end-of-the-world trilogy" quickly became more about a book between the strong but difficult relationship between mother and daughter. The final acknowledgements section at the end of the book (as well as the final chapter) almost brought tears to my eyes. Amazing.

The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
Rating: 5 stars * * * * *
Book 2 in the broken earth trilogy that my friend 
Neal Ford turned me onto. This book provides most of the answers to lots of question from the first book in this trilogy (The Fifth Season). I really had trouble putting this book down once I started reading it, making for some very late nights. The stone eaters are still a mystery to me, but hopefully that mystery will be solved in book 3 of the trilogy. After reading this book I can’t imagine stopping after the first one in the series. So much more is explained in this book, making it a must to read after book one to really get the whole picture of the end of the world.

Books I’ve Read (2017) 

  • Artemis by Andy Weir (A)
  • The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin (A)
  • The Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger (B+)
  • The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell (A)
  • The Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell (A)
  • Origins by Dan Brown (A-)
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (A)
  • The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell (A)
  • Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell (A) 
  • A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles (A+)
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (B+)
  • Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell (A)
  • The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell (A)
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (A)
  • The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell (A)
  • Thinking Machines by Luke Dormehl (B-)
  • The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley (B-)
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (B+)
  • Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom (B+)
  • The Kraken Project by Douglas Preston (B+) 
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (B+)
  • The Revenant by Michael Punke (B+)
  • Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (B)
  • Beyond the Ice Limit by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (B+)

Books I’ve Read (2016) 

  • Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell (A+)
  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King (D-)
  • Terminal Velocity by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (B+)
  • The White Queen by Phillippa Gregory (A)
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi (C)
  • A Higher Call by Adam Makos (A)
  • The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (B)
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling (B-)
  • The Lost Island by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (B+)
  • Proxy by Lauren Richards (A)
  • The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck (A-)
  • Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace (A)
  • The Third Gate by Lincoln Child (B+)
  • The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child (B+)
  • The Rescue by Joseph Conrad (B)
  • Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwell (A-)
  • When the Eagle Hunts by Simon Scarrow (B)
  • Diamond Age by Neal Stevenson (B)
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (B)
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (A-)
  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (B+)
  • SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard (A)
  • Under The Eagle by Simon Scarrow (B+)
  • The Eagle’s Conquest by Simon Scarrow (B+)
  • Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (A)
  • Seveneves by Neal Stevenson (A+)
  • Proxima by Stephen Baxter (B-)

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