Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Game of Thrones" by George RR Martin

I was introduced to this story through the television show and was looking for a way to try my library's ebook checkout system. I saw this title right away and knew it would be a good read. I downloaded it and read it like an ordinary ebook, but the special library app made sure I "returned" it at the end of the allotted time. 

Summary: In the land of Westeros there are seven kingdoms united together under one king. Each region is ruled by a powerful family and is divided again among lesser lords. What makes this story exciting is that political power ebbs and flows from lord to lord depending on hundreds of decisions, strategies and plots.

This book spends most of it's time centered around Ned Stark and his family. He is the Lord of Winterfell and was critical in helping the king gain the throne from the Mad King who was so horrible that one of his own guards finally killed him. After some key battles were won, King Robert was crowned. And now the king's highest adviser is dead, so Ned has been asked to replace him. As Ned learns more and more about what is happening in the capital, it looks worse and worse.

Every piece is moving in this chess game and there is no way to anticipate how it will all play out. Those of you who have seen the show, it is basically the same story as season one. The big difference with the book is that you get to spend a lot of time inside the head of each character, watching them analyze their situations and weigh the pros and cons of action. In the show you see what they do, but in the book you read why they do it.

What I Liked: I loved the show, and I am glad that the book has the same feel without making me feel like I have to say one is better than the other. Both are amazing.

What I Didn't Like: I'm not sold on the library ebook system. I still can't get over the idea that my software is due back so that someone else can read it.

Rating: Must Read.

Also Read by this Author: None.

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"The Fellowship of the Ring" by JRR Tolkien

I read this book in middle school, and got half way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I stopped because I found it depressing and the elven was unintelligible, but now that I am an adult nerd, I feel like I should have all four of them under my belt, and not just the movies. At the library I saw all four in audiobook format and decided I could finally finish the series. 

Summary: This story takes place several decades after The Hobbit in which Bilbo goes on an adventure and happens to find a very useful ring. It is The Ring. Centuries ago, Sauron gave out rings of power to various factions hoping to win their trust and loyalty. And he had a special secret because he made one more ring that was designed to control the others. Sauron lost the ring in battle and it changed many hands until finally reaching Bilbo, a small hobbit in the Shire. Young Frodo inherited the ring when Biblo decided to leave the Shire right around the time Gandalf began to understand the true power of the thing.

As Sauron grows in power and threatens the lives of every race, Gandalf the Grey thought on the fate of the ring for some time, finally deciding that any plan which did not include destroying was too dangerous. Unfortunately, the only way the ring could be destroyed was to drop it in the pits of Mordor where it was forged. The rest of the book is assembling a team to bring the ring to Mordor and destroy it before the wraiths of Sauron can seize it.

What I Liked: Since I liked The Hobbit I appreciate any book in the same universe. Also, this is quintessential fantasy with elves, dwarves, wizards and brave knights. This first book in the trilogy is very hopeful and eager. The characters are worried, but motivated to complete their mission. 

What I Didn't Like: Some of the decisions made by the wise folk are a bit confounding. One option they have is to send the ring to the opposite side of the world, and they figure that Sauron will catch up with it some day, so that's not good enough. It seems to me, that if it delays the problem several generations, its still a win, whereas bringing the ring straight into Sauron's fortress hoping to destroy it seems more dangerous. Also, while I am complaining, Tom Bombadil is older than the world, and bends the world to his will, yet he can't be bothered to help destroy the ring. I mean, he could have totally saved the day without breaking a sweat!

Rating: Recommended.

Also Read by this Author: The Hobbit.

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"The Hobbit" By JRR Tolkien

I read this book in middle school, and got half way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I stopped because I found it depressing and the elven was unintelligible, but now that I am an adult nerd, I feel like I should have all four of them under my belt, and not just the movies. At the library I saw all four in audiobook format and decided I could finally finish the series. 

Summary: This book takes place several decades before the Lord of the Rings series and is not technically part of the series, though it does introduce a few characters and provides a context for the trilogy that comes later.

In this book, Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit living by himself in a nice hole safely placed in the Shire. He is tricked by Gandalf, a mysterious old man known for his amazing fireworks and said to be a wizard, who invites a thirteen dwarves to his hobbit hole. Eventually, Bilbo figures out that he is hosting the planning meeting for an expedition to the Lonely Mountain so that it might be reclaimed for the dwarves.

Bilbo joins Thorin Oakenshield and his dwarves on a dangerous adventure eastward. They meet elves, trolls, goblins and eagles as they navigate through the Mirkwood. At one critical juncture, Biblo finds the Ring which eventually sparks the events in the trilogy.

What I Liked: I am a gamer, mostly Dungeons and Dragons style games. When you are playing D&D there is a certain sort of banter where players egg each other on and make all sorts of comments that make fun or make light of the situation no matter how seriously it is supposed to be. I found it very comforting that the characters in The Hobbit sound like D&D gamers! They stumble around the puzzle built for them by Tolkien, then say and act in ways that are a combination of stupid and wise. It's clear Tolkien was having fun with the story.

What I Didn't Like: Frankly, of the four books, this is my favorite one. The ending is a bit weird, since the hero sort of pops in at the last moment, but whatever. I must say one thing, though. Gandalf is not particularly awesome in this book. He can make fireworks and smoke rings, and shows up then disappears at random times, but there isn't much wizardry yet.

Rating: Must Read.

Also Read by this Author: To come later, since I am rereading them.

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

"World War Moo" by Michael Logan

I found this book at an independent bookstore called Uncle Hugo's and knew that I just had to read it. I did not see the first book, though, so I picked it up at the library and read that first.

Summary: The biological weapon accidentally released from the government facility has infected nearly every mammal living in Britain. Luckily, the ocean and the Channel have provided a barrier to prevent the spread so far, providing that the blockade does not fail. The virus makes the infected seek out and violently attack the uninfected, but as there no longer are any uninfected available, the is dormant. The infected humans have stopped rioting and destroying, and have begun to rebuild.

China, the United States and Russia control the main military response to the outbreak and are eager to nip it in the bud before it crosses the water, while Brits for the Rights of the InfecTed (BRIT) is scrambling for a way to prevent an attack.

While the international tensions are building, Geldof, our young hero from Apocalypse Cow, is living with his wealthy grandfather when they learn his mother is still alive in Britain, and uninfected. A rescue attempt is organized while Lesley the reporter finds herself in trouble after asking too many questions.

What I Liked: This book has the same style of humor I loved from the first book and provides more insight into the characters I loved. I also really love the interesting scenario that BRIT finds itself in, struggling to make peace with an enemy that they view as prey.

What I Didn't Like: One of the reasons I love apocalypse stories is because they often take a regular guy at the grocery store and suddenly, he has to create a plan to survive the zombie wars. This book doesn't have that feel, as that all happened in book one. Since this is the sequel, the pace is a little different, with some tension from high stakes global politics and some from people taking on dangerous missions.

Rating: Recommended.

Also Read by this Author: Apocalypse Cow.

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Risky Game" by Tracy Solheim

I saw a highly rated review of this book on and thought I'd pick it up from the library.  I felt a little guilty, like I was cheating on Miz Roberts, but I figure its OK to take a little break as I wait for the next trilogy to come out.
Image via Goodreads

Summary:  Professional football tight end (see what she did there) Brody Janik is an all-star on and off the field.  Incredibly handsome and a natural athlete, Janik lives a charmed life...until he is diagnosed with high blood sugar.  Afraid his medical condition will hinder his contact renewal, Janik decides to hide his secret from the team.  Except team intern and PhD candidate Shay Everett overhears Janik's secret while spying on the team to gather information to sell to a gossip blogger.

Although Shay works hard---three jobs hard---to support herself through grad school, Shay can't stomach the thought of selling out someone else for some easy cash.  But although Shay decides to keep Janik's secret to herself, Janik soon learns that Shay is in the know, and decides to keep his friends close and his enemies closer via blackmail.

What starts out as a working relationship of convenience soon blossoms into something more as Janik learns to appreciate a woman that challenges him and Shay learns how to rely on someone other than herself.

My Thoughts:  I've never read a sports romance before; in fact I wasn't even aware they existed.  Let me tell you...I've been missing out!  This book was everything I look for in a romance:  witty dialogue, interesting characters, a look into the lives of people with jobs I know nothing about, a sexy romance with believable emotion, funny supporting characters and a happy ending.

Janik and Shay had a snarky, interesting dynamic that made the couple's ascent into love believable.  Janik and Shay didn't fall into love, or even like, right away.  Both characters had to grow throughout the story in order to fall for each other.

Brody Janik is a proverbial golden boy - rich, talented and handsome, but he's also self aware in a way that I found refreshing in a romantic hero.  Janik recognizes that his life is charmed right now, but is afraid of what will happen after football.  This fear keeps his eyes on the prize - renewing his contract - even when he knows he needs more to be satisfied in life

Shay is tough and intelligent and her traits help her keep her eye on her prize - her PhD and and lined up job that will help her save her mom's business.  Emotionally abused by her overbearing Meemaw (side note...ick) Shay's biggest challenge is loving herself enough to let herself be loved.

As Janik and Shay interact, their personalities grow in such a way that their instant sexual attraction turns into real believable romantic chemistry.  And I ate it up like a carton of Ben & Jerry's on a Thursday night.

Rating:  I'll read this again, and I've already requested the rest of the series from the library.

Also Read By Author:  Nada, but I'm going to check out all her stuff.

Reviewed By:  Tami