Drew Hayes: Split the Party

•July 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

28075533._UY200_Split the Party: Spells, Swords, & Stealth #2
by Drew Hayes
narrated by Roger Wayne
(fantasy)

Splitting the party is ALWAYS a bad idea in RPGs. That is most often when you run into the things that kill you. However, for novels, it tends to be one of the ways to get more exciting adventures. Such was the case in this book. When the party runs into trouble (I’ll leave the details out to avoid spoilers), they determine that the only way to solve said trouble is to split into two groups. For a real role-playing group, this probably would have been bad. (If for no other reason than DMs like to discourage splitting the party since there’s only one DM and he or she can only be in one place at a time.) For the book’s party, however, it works out well.

MINOR SPOILERS BELOW

Splitting the party in this case works best, in my opinion, for the ones who are sent into town instead of the ones who stay put. Grumph (the half-orc wizard) gets the added bonus of more spells in this book, and Gabrielle (the barbarian) gets a new, and powerful axe. (I’m really curious to learn more about this axe in later books. It seems to have a mind of its own, and as Mr. Weasley said in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain”.)

I am also curious to know more about Fritz. I have had suspicions about her since nearly her introduction. Thistle seems to share some of my thoughts, and I’m curious to see if I’m right about her.

SPOILERS OVER

This is a really fun book. It’s not a gamer-specific as the first book was (though even that one could easily be enjoyed by non-gamers) but it still has nice touches that gamers will appreciate best. I’m looking forward to (and, in fact, have already started) book #3, and highly anticipate book 4 which is due out toward the end of this year or sometime next year.

Fun note – of the different characters, my usual D&D character would be most similar to the rogue in this story. If you play, what character type did you favor?

James Goss: Doctor Who: City of Death

•July 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Doctor Who: City of Death
by James Goss (Douglas Adams contributor, from a story by David Fisher)
(Science-Fantasy, TV novelization)

I think I would have to give this book a 3.5 star rating. If in doubt, round it up because of Goss’ skill in the actual writing of the text. I imagine it could be difficult to make an interesting novelization of a TV show which has the pacing of classic Doctor Who episodes. (Old Who tends to be paced much slower than modern audiences expect. There’s a longer build, and episodes run as serials, with 4 or 5 episodes to one story. New Who is much faster, with each episode usually containing the entire story, even if the season does have a series arc as well. It seems to be hard for fans of New Who to go back and enjoy Old Who episodes because of the pacing difference.)

This is not my favorite Doctor Who episode. Not by a LONG shot. The Fourth Doctor (who is featured in this book) is My Doctor, as Whovians reckon things, but this episode has never been a highlight for me. It seems that The Doctor isn’t the star of this episode – and the star isn’t even his companion, Romana. (Yes, I realize she’s also a Time Lord. She’s still his companion.) The star of this episode is Paris. And that’s not what I enjoy most from Doctor Who episodes.

I have read (well, listened to) another of James Goss’ Doctor Who stories, but this is the only one which was a TV episode first. I liked the other one a lot more, because I was able to enjoy it for itself and not with the episode constantly running in my head as background to the story. (Granted, I also liked it because it was narrated by David Tenant.) This one was well written, but had the same issues that the TV episode did. I don’t read Doctor Who to read about Paris any more than I watch the show for that reason.

I did enjoy the additional background we see into the other characters, and the humor was lovely. My chief complaint is with the plot, and not the execution.

Seanan McGuire: Down Among the Sticks and Bones

•June 28, 2017 • Leave a Comment

DownAmongSticksBones_McGuireDown Among the Sticks and Bones: Wayward Children #2
by Seanan McGuire
(fantasy)

I loved the first book in this series, Every Heart a Doorway, so when this one was announced I knew I would buy it as soon as it was released. I did. And I immediately devoured it. I enjoyed this one nearly as much as I did the first one. (It’s always hard for a sequel to be quite as good as the first, for me, because the first book has the benefit of introducing you to the world.)

For those who have read the first book in this series, you will already know the (approximate) ending of this story. This story goes backward in time and tells the story of Jack and Jill and how they found their door into the Moors when they were young. (Twelve, I think.) (The first book happens after they have returned to our world, and are 17 or 18 or somewhere in there.) For me, though, knowing the ending of this story didn’t make it any less enjoyable. After finishing EHAD, I wanted to know more about these two characters, so I’m very glad to get to delve into their backstory. I’d be curious to read about what happens to them AFTER EHAD too, but this is not that story.

Talking too much about the plot here will give spoilers for one or both of the books in the series. However, I can say that it’s both a dark story and a happy one, and a combination of gothic horror and fairy tale. (It’s light on the horror aspect, but it is there. It’s more implied than written.) I really enjoyed this book, and I’ll be getting the third one as soon as it’s released, too.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

•June 28, 2017 • Leave a Comment

51kyOGIHeIL._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
by Neil deGrasse Tyson
(non-fiction, science)

I used to listen to the StarTalk Radio podcast regularly. Even though I haven’t done so for a while now, I still love hearing Neil deGrasse Tyson explain sciencey things to me. So when I heard that he had narrated his Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I had to buy it.

I’m glad I did. Some of the things covered in the book are things I’ve heard Mr. Tyson talk about before, but he usually goes into slightly more depth in this book then he had time to on the podcast. He also covers a wide spread of subjects within his larger topic, and it was interesting to see where he would go from one topic to the next. Plus, his brand of humor is always worth listening to. It makes science more approachable while still being science.

I think this book is a great addition to any library. I plan on also buying a hard copy of this book to use as an easier reference book. Also, I’ll re-read the hard copy at some point, since I get different things out of audio books and paper books.

Drew Hayes: NPCs

•June 27, 2017 • Leave a Comment

61tWmaHim7L._AA300_NPCs: Spells, Swords, & Stealth #1
by Drew Hayes
narrated by Roger Wayne
(fantasy, some role playing humor)

Let me just say this right off: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I also really enjoyed the narration also, though I suspect I would have loved the book equally if I had read it instead of listened to the audio version.

I said in my Goodreads review that this is required reading for any D&D player, especially DMs. However, I realize that there are some D&D players or DMs who won’t enjoy it, and plenty of non D&D-ers who will also love it. (A lot of the D&D references also apply at least a little to RPG video games, for example.) In any case, it is a very fun book with great humor and lots of references to the real world which manage to be written completely in the character of the book. At no time was I thrown out of the story because the in-jokes became too meta or too obvious.

There were a few twists which I saw coming. (Nothing major, just little things.) This didn’t alter my enjoyment of the story, but it also didn’t feel like I’d made a major coup the way it can when you figure out whodunnit in a mystery before the big reveal. There were plenty of things left unexplained as well, which works fine because I know of at least two more books in the series. The book itself didn’t end on a cliffhanger, but instead the reader was shown which parts of the plot were novel-arc, and which were series-arc.

All in all, I think this book is one that would appeal to a large group of readers, though you have to have at least some enjoyment of fantasy novels. There is humor, but not too much; violence, but not too descriptive; and religion, but the kind which comes with most fantasy worlds instead of trying to mimic our society’s religions. Should you read it? Well, if the rest of this paragraph appeals to you, then yes. Definitely. I will certainly be picking up the next book in the series as well as gifting this book to at least one family member this holiday season, and that’s the best praise I can give to a book.

Lilian Jackson Braun: The Cat Who Saw Red

•June 26, 2017 • 2 Comments

catwhosawredThe Cat Who Saw Red: Cat Who #4
by Lilian Jackson Braun
(cozy cat mystery)

I have been enjoying these books, though I enjoyed this one more than the first two in the series. (My used book store didn’t have #3, so I skipped that one.) I think a large part of the difference in my enjoyment was due to the gap in writing dates, when there were some societal changes that made this 4th book closer to my modern sensibilities. (The first two books, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards and The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, were published in 1966 and 1967, respectively. This fourth novel was published in 1986.)

Whatever the case about my enjoyment of the novel, this also is a rather different murder mystery, since the murder isn’t fully acknowledged until the book’s wrap-up. It’s all suspicion and who believes what until that point. Very different from the usual murder mystery with its corpse(e) littering the floor. I enjoyed that aspect of it, but I’m glad the other books in the series which I’ve read followed the usual “it’s a murder because we found a body” development. This one was fun, but if done too often it would (at least with Braun’s style for this series) get really old.

I’m starting to be unsure how many of these books I will read. They’re amusing, but my main enjoyment of them is the cats. I don’t care nearly as much for the human characters. This is not to say that I dislike Qwill or the others. I just don’t like them as much as I like the cats. And as the humans feature more in the books than the cats do (and it’s a long series), I may only read the books whose plot summaries interest me most. We’ll see – though I do know I’m taking a break from the Cat Who books for a little while. I’ll visit KoKo and Yum-Yum more later.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

•June 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

51X8E6a4HJL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Choose Your Own Autobiography
by Neil Patrick Harris
(memoir)

This book is an amusing memoir for two main reasons: one, the subject matter; two, the style in which it was told. If you are a child of the 80’s, I’m guessing you will remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books where you flipped pages at the end of each chapter based on what you wanted the characters to do. You know – “If you take the path to your left, turn to page 54. If you go up the stairs, turn to page 16.” I don’t know about you, but I LOVED those books. So, my childhood reading history made this memoir all that much more enjoyable.

As to the other reason I enjoyed this book, it was fun reading about NPH’s life. You hear the words “child star” and inevitably bad connotations spring to mind. In this case, though, it was quite different than expectations, and I was happy to hear that sometimes it works out well for all involved, too. I also appreciated reading about (well, a little about) how he became the star we know and love today, even if some of the story was blatant fiction. (It’s a true “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, complete with death scenes where salvation is just out of reach. Ah, how I remember those scenes.)

You don’t have to be a fan of Neil Patrick Harris to enjoy this book, though it most certainly helps. I think that anyone who wanted a fun glimpse into the life of a TV and Broadway star would get something out of this, as would anyone who is looking into unconventional ways to write a memoir. Since I am a fan of NPH, however, as well as someone who always enjoys at least hearing about unconventional writing ideas, I loved this book.