The Perpetual To Read Pile (As it never ends, not because I'm Perp!)

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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There is not to much to review in a book like this.

It is a direct transcript of some of the Irish comedian’s most funny monologues. They are arranged in a rather simple but effective manner, following the path of life, from childhood through to death (and the afterlife).
Each section is introduced by a short text piece talking about Dave Allen’s views and thought on the particular time in his life, what he was doing at the time and what made him think about that time of his life, giving a little bit of perspective.

If you are a fan or someone who remembers the comedian, you will have no problem as you read through the tales, you will snigger and laugh and perhaps come to an appreciation of how good he was, if not you might be interested and appreciative, but I do not think it would have been as funny if you did not have the image in your head and hear that voice on your shoulder.
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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The fourth book brings The Rain Wild Chronicles to an end.

I have heard and been told by a few people that this is not the best series by Hobb and is surpassed by all her other related novels. I’m not sure that I would agree… totally. Her engaging style is there, and the pages turn by themselves (almost). It is hard to put down and the reader is likely to try and find extra time to read just so they can emerge themselves in the world for a little bit longer.

It is not some rehash of her earlier works, neither does it feel that cast-off bits have been stitched together to make an extra tale. It enriches the world, builds on what we have seen before. It gives a look into the past, and sees a society rebuilding itself.

It is a story of an epic, desperate journey with an unknown outcome, populated with a variety of characters that are both different and interesting.

And, of course, it has dragons. In a world where dragons have been underutilised – due to their scarcity – it is nice to see them beginning to return to the world. Even more the pathetic and horrendous conditions in which the deformed dragons exist is a superb starting point as we follow them on their long journey and see them develop into a new breed of healthy wonders.

In fact, there is the feeling that the books are an important part of Hobb’s worldbuilding. The events when you look at them from a completed objective are huge. Not only do we see the return of a beast that was nearly extinct, but we see ancient cities and ‘technologies’ brought back to life, an opening of old ways, adapting and combining with new, but we also see the destruction and reordering of one of the biggest political powers in the world.

Taking everything into account then, this should be a massive series, everything works, it is unsurprisingly well written, it takes the ongoing saga into new directions and this final book is a satisfactory and dramatic end to the series.

So, why is it that it seems to not quite reach to the levels of her previous works?

Well, I think, to put it bluntly, Hobb can be rather… vicious to her characters. In fact it is something that I have seen mentioned again and again how she is quite happy to create characters that are virtually impossible not to love, and then spends hundreds of pages putting them through hell and torment. What Fitz has to put up with in one book alone is more than most fantasy characters have to put up with in a lifetime, and that does not even begin to include his torments in later novels. (Having met Hobb this nasty streak is even more disturbing, because she seems so nice.)

And this is the problem. Her readers have become expectant of a certain degree of suffering for her characters, something that is not present here. Some of the characters do suffer, but in no way is it to the degree of previous books and maybe this has led itself to a sense that the danger is not really there for the characters this time around. There are moments and injuries and situations that arise, and you can almost feel the bad is coming, but it never does, at least to the degree one would expect.

In many ways the series is wrapped up with a bow of happy endings, marriages, problems resolved, the new world order falling into place, everything working out for the best, the nasty pieces of work – and there are a few – get their comeuppance.

It’s a perfectly good series, and very readable, just a little nicer than normal.
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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Many years ago I picked up a couple of cheap paperbacks by American Science Fiction Writer, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. They were in the budget section and I think I got all 3 for .50p or something silly like that – it was a long time ago and a new paperback was about .35p.

I enjoyed them, but never followed it up further until I stumbled across Writ in Blood, a book featuring Vampires, or so it seemed, so I bought it, read it and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of historical detail was incorporated in the story, and how much more subtle it was than your average vampire novel – oh and that the main character was not a monster.

Over I read one or two more of the books, but only when I happened to stumble on them, and never went actually looking for them. That change recently when I actively began tracking them down, and here, at last, read the first book in the series, Hotel Transylvania.

The Comte St. Germain is a newcomer to Paris society, a bit of a stranger, a bit of an outsider, but a novelty, who through his charm, wealth and patronage has become quite a fixture. The story follows his (resisted) attraction to a young newcomer to Parisian society, Madeline, and the events surrounding their meeting, the most important of which are the workings of a satanic blood cult, to which Madeline is a target and all the twists and turns that are associated with that.

Compared the size of some of the late books this novel is quite slight, and you can tell it is an earlier book by Yarbro as it does not seem to have that practiced skill that she picks up and uses in later works. This does not mean that it is a poorer novel in any way, but you can see her talent gestating in much the same way as the characters are.

There is the feel that is her attempt at vampire fiction and that although she is finding her feet, there is a lot that she thinks needs to be there, rather than has to be there and is pulled along by this. In this instance it is the feel of romance, the allure of the vampire and the gentle erotic nature of St. Germain and Madeline; which is offset by the violent, intrusive and somewhat bloody nature of the cult that believes they are on the path to greatness.

Their leader St. Sebastian is almost the perfect opposite to St. Germain, human desperate for a long life, and prepared to use whatever means he can to increase his prestige and power, is more of a monster than St. Germain could ever be, offering an enthralling contrast between the two.

The strong historical background that has been prevalent in later novels is here to, although maybe not in exactly the same way. It appears that Yarbro has come into this novel looking at the life of the real St. Germain, some of the truths, half-truths and outright fictions and used them as a background to weave a tale together that incorporates the quirkiness and mystery of the man, while offering an explanation that pushes into the realm of fantasy.

There are little bits that felt slightly overdone – the number of times that it is mentioned that St. Germain has really small hands seems excessive for one – and there were one or two places where I lost the trail of the plot slightly (this could be me), but this is an excellent starting point for a series that would run on for years and over 25 novels, not including short stories and spin-offs. You can see why Yarbro might have sat back after finishing her attempt at explaining the St. Germain enigma and thought, ‘I might get a bit more out of this.’
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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Are you ready for a rip-roaring space adventure?

Then this book is going to deliver. It is action packed, full of edge of the seat set pieces, and perhaps above all it is fun.

Nathan Telford is a young member of a family operated spacecraft, but for him life does not work out the way it is expected and he finds himself living with foster parents on a backwater but homely world.
Nathan, it seems, is pretty much a science fiction hero, clean cut, borderline genius, excellent in the field, with an unusual and as yet unexplained tick – his ‘prep’ that warns him of danger, he survives in hostile environments that no-one can live in and gets the girl of his dreams.

This could be the start of being someone who is too good to be true, but Strebor manages to deflect away from this by giving Nathan a few little character flaws that might not balance things out, but certainly add a little tarnish to the lustre. Amongst these are a need for vengeance, a temper that might be a little too hard to control, a willingness to kill, not talking about the past and perhaps being a little too clever for his own good.

All of this works well, and when it is thrown together with the other characters and the adventure that unfolds around them. As this is the first book in the series it is hard to say what the greater schemes the author may have, but what was refreshing here was the fact that it was not really an epic tale of empires clashing and the reordering of civilisation. Rather it is the story of people living and working in a functioning reality, doing jobs, that coincide with the life they are leading, or as they enter the military.

There is the feeling of the mission being of the mundane – not in the sense of boring, but in the sense that it is common place and that there are many such missions taking place across space, with a multitude of different powers working together with a few independent criminal factions and opposing political powers. When there are clashes on borders, that is where the fun begins.

The characters are, as a whole, well drawn, and interact well together. They are good enough to like or to start to understand, even when some are not a major part of the story Strebor has taken the time to invest them with character, and this can only help the novels flow. Any book that introduces a character you want to punch is a good one.

With all this being said, there were a few things that grated from me – but I need to emphasise it I just me, and I can see a logical reason for what I am about to say being so. The whole set up of the political powers and Strebor’s universe as a whole seem to be a little to heavily drawn on the modern world. The different powers all draw their names from modern countries or cities, and the setup could well be on similar to the Cold War.

Furthermore, the descriptions and types of spacecraft spring to mind different types of naval vessels or commercial boats, from submarines to tugs. With this taken into account it would work just as well as a war novel. Probably not as much fun though.

Finally, and not necessarily a bad thing, was the way initial setup grated. Over the course of the first few chapters we went from a family owned on operated ship (interesting idea and would have been nice to see more of); Prisoners/slaves of a rather vicious and brutal – borderline psychopathic – regime (I would have been quite happy to read a novel based around this); Escape from said regime, pursuit and final ‘getaway’ (Could have been a really tense and dramatic novel); and survivors on a plague world and the ultimate payoff of one of them being naturally immune – (Could have been a great and harrowing, bleak story of survival.) All this and not mention the rescue and the investigation into how he survived.

For me, the opening part of the novel was too fast, there was the potential of a lot more there and it seemed as though I was getting into the setup for something only to have it snatched away and another setup beginning and then repeat. Even after this, Nathan’s story seems to jump a lot, the reader being jumped through his life until he starts his service.

There are a few other things that are not resolved, undoubtedly in some of the later books and any of the above could be important things to be looked at in flashback later.

In summation it was an excellent read, and I will quite happily look up some more by Strebor. When the book pile shrinks.

@Droflet
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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And that is it for the books of 2018.

The challenge of 40 books was not completed, but there was more to the story.

End of year stats to follow.
 

Droflet

I don't teach chickens how to dance.
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Are you ready for a rip-roaring space adventure?

Then this book is going to deliver. It is action packed, full of edge of the seat set pieces, and perhaps above all it is fun.

Nathan Telford is a young member of a family operated spacecraft, but for him life does not work out the way it is expected and he finds himself living with foster parents on a backwater but homely world.
Nathan, it seems, is pretty much a science fiction hero, clean cut, borderline genius, excellent in the field, with an unusual and as yet unexplained tick – his ‘prep’ that warns him of danger, he survives in hostile environments that no-one can live in and gets the girl of his dreams.

This could be the start of being someone who is too good to be true, but Strebor manages to deflect away from this by giving Nathan a few little character flaws that might not balance things out, but certainly add a little tarnish to the lustre. Amongst these are a need for vengeance, a temper that might be a little too hard to control, a willingness to kill, not talking about the past and perhaps being a little too clever for his own good.

All of this works well, and when it is thrown together with the other characters and the adventure that unfolds around them. As this is the first book in the series it is hard to say what the greater schemes the author may have, but what was refreshing here was the fact that it was not really an epic tale of empires clashing and the reordering of civilisation. Rather it is the story of people living and working in a functioning reality, doing jobs, that coincide with the life they are leading, or as they enter the military.

There is the feeling of the mission being of the mundane – not in the sense of boring, but in the sense that it is common place and that there are many such missions taking place across space, with a multitude of different powers working together with a few independent criminal factions and opposing political powers. When there are clashes on borders, that is where the fun begins.

The characters are, as a whole, well drawn, and interact well together. They are good enough to like or to start to understand, even when some are not a major part of the story Strebor has taken the time to invest them with character, and this can only help the novels flow. Any book that introduces a character you want to punch is a good one.

With all this being said, there were a few things that grated from me – but I need to emphasise it I just me, and I can see a logical reason for what I am about to say being so. The whole set up of the political powers and Strebor’s universe as a whole seem to be a little to heavily drawn on the modern world. The different powers all draw their names from modern countries or cities, and the setup could well be on similar to the Cold War.

Furthermore, the descriptions and types of spacecraft spring to mind different types of naval vessels or commercial boats, from submarines to tugs. With this taken into account it would work just as well as a war novel. Probably not as much fun though.

Finally, and not necessarily a bad thing, was the way initial setup grated. Over the course of the first few chapters we went from a family owned on operated ship (interesting idea and would have been nice to see more of); Prisoners/slaves of a rather vicious and brutal – borderline psychopathic – regime (I would have been quite happy to read a novel based around this); Escape from said regime, pursuit and final ‘getaway’ (Could have been a really tense and dramatic novel); and survivors on a plague world and the ultimate payoff of one of them being naturally immune – (Could have been a great and harrowing, bleak story of survival.) All this and not mention the rescue and the investigation into how he survived.

For me, the opening part of the novel was too fast, there was the potential of a lot more there and it seemed as though I was getting into the setup for something only to have it snatched away and another setup beginning and then repeat. Even after this, Nathan’s story seems to jump a lot, the reader being jumped through his life until he starts his service.

There are a few other things that are not resolved, undoubtedly in some of the later books and any of the above could be important things to be looked at in flashback later.

In summation it was an excellent read, and I will quite happily look up some more by Strebor. When the book pile shrinks.

@Droflet
Thanks Perp, I'm glad you enjoyed it.
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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Thanks Perp, I'm glad you enjoyed it.
I really did!

I've been looking at the sequels - are they only available in ebook format at the moment? (Not that it makes a difference, I just do like to have a physical copy of these things!)
 

Droflet

I don't teach chickens how to dance.
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Yeah, the publisher stopped supplying paperbacks after the first one. I like books too. Sigh.
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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So the year end is upon us.

I set myself the target of trying to read 40 books in a year - not much by some peoples standards, but this would have been more than last year. I failed. :D

Stats 1.jpg

As can be seen I missed the target by 7 books and did not even match the previous year, falling two books short.

But...
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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Stats 2.jpg

When looked at from the perspective of pages, I read more last year than in the preceding 8 years, so it does seem that less is more!
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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Stats 3.jpg


And a bit of fun the publish dates of all the books I've read recently!

All stats courtesy of Goodreads
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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That is bizarre. It costs nothing anymore to provide a paperback version on Amazon.
Perhaps something to think about in the future, Drof.

Yep, but you know who my publisher is.

Perp, you could contact TicketyBoo press and ask if he's got paperbacks. It's three years old so maybe?
I'll see what they say, but for the moment, I'm not too worried, I'm happy enough to read the e-version
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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2019

A bit of a change.

I'm setting myself a target of 20 books - but they are all a lot longer than any of the ones I have read this year.
They are, however, by some of my favourite authors, so I am wondering if that will inspire me to read them faster.

The list is:



Under Heaven (Under Heaven, #1)
by Guy Gavriel Kay *
4.14 avg rating — 11,642 ratings — published 2010
In Under Heaven, Kay tells a story of honor and power, this time in a setting that evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of eighth-century China. In recognition of his service to the Emperor of Kitai, Shen ...more
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Under Heaven (Under Heaven, #1)
Kay, Guy Gavriel *
4.14
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Jan 23, 2017
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view »
remove owned book



A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (The Tales of Dunk and Egg, #1-3)

Martin, George R.R.
4.21
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Jan 23, 2017
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Heritage of Cyador (The Saga of Recluce, #18)

Modesitt Jr., L.E. *
4.23
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
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[edit]
not set[edit]
Jan 24, 2017
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remove owned book



The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4)

Sanderson, Brandon *
4.21
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Jan 24, 2017
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Great North Road

Hamilton, Peter F. *
4.07
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Jan 24, 2017
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view »



Snuff (Discworld, #39)

Pratchett, Terry
4.17
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Jan 24, 2017
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view »



Against All Things Ending(The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, #3)

Donaldson, Stephen R.
3.88
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Jan 24, 2017
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view »
remove owned book



The Inheritance

Hobb, Robin *
3.96
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Jan 24, 2017
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view »



Before They Are Hanged(The First Law, #2)

Abercrombie, Joe
4.28
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Jan 24, 2017
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view »



Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island

Ellis, Warren *
3.46
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Jan 26, 2017
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view »



Captain America: Two Americas

Brubaker, Ed
3.62
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Jan 26, 2017
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view »



Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs, #1)

Morgan, Richard K.
4.06
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Dec 22, 2018
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The Black Elfstone (The Fall of Shannara, #1)

Brooks, Terry *
4.17
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Dec 22, 2018
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Caliban's Hour

Williams, Tad *
3.49
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Dec 22, 2018
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view »



Wrath of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder, #2)

McClellan, Brian *
4.56
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Dec 22, 2018
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view »



Sea Dragon Heir (The Chronicles of Magravandias, #1)

Constantine, Storm *
3.59
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Dec 22, 2018
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view »



Prince of Fools (The Red Queen's War, #1)

Lawrence, Mark *
4.07
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Dec 22, 2018
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view »



Frank Miller's Sin City Volume 2: A Dame to Kill For

Miller, Frank
4.16
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Dec 23, 2018
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view »



Charley's War, Volume 1: 2 June – 1 August 1916(Charley’s War, #1)

Mills, Pat *
4.29
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Dec 23, 2018
edit
view »



Darksoul (Godblind #2)

Stephens, Anna *
4.43
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
to-read
[edit]
not set[edit]
Dec 23, 2018
edit
view »
 

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