Thursday, December 29, 2016


by Daniel O'Malley
583 pgs  (The Checquy series #2)

I had been eagerly waiting for Daniel O'Malleys follow-up to The Rook ever since reading it almost five years ago. His Brotherhood of the Checquy--England's secret government organization consisting of humans with supernatural abilities who protect the general populace from the supernatural--is a highly-entertaining creation, with the potential to be the basis for a long series of books.

At the end of The Rook, the Checquy was offered an alliance with the Grafters, their enemies for over three hundred years. The Grafters--an equally-entertaining creation of O'Malley's--is an organization consisting of alchemists who developed fantastical modifications for the human body, and surgically performed those modifications on each other in order to give them powers and abilities that a brief description of which by me wouldn't do justice.

As Stiletto begins, the Grafters send a delegation to the headquarters of the Checquy in London to work out the details of the proposed alliance. But the Grafters haven't been entirely open with the Checquy. They haven't informed them that a splinter-group calling themselves the Antagonists strongly opposes the alliance, and have already proven their willingness to use terrorist tactics in order to derail the process. The Antagonists have followed the Grafters to London and are laying the groundwork for their plans to ensure that animosity between the Checquy and Grafters continues for centuries to come.

When Rook Myfany Thomas, who strongly supports the alliance, learns of the existence of the Antagonists and their plans, she knows she may be the only one with the ability to stop them and allow the process to succeed. What proceeds is an action-packed story best described as a mashup between The X-Men and Men in Black.

O'Malley is an author that I'm very excited about. he only has two books published so far, but both of them demonstrate that he's an author worth checking out. His characters are well-developed and his stories are complex, fun, and entertaining. My only criticism is the nearly-five-year wait for book two. Everyone needs to buy both his books and give him the ability financially to quit his day job working for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and write full time. I can't imagine he'd like to continue working there a day longer than he has to. Here's hoping those days are numbered and he's able to focus solely on writing soon. Selfish of me, I know, but I'm pretty sure it's a win-win situation for everyone involved.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Death Cure

by James Dashner
327 pgs  (The Maze Runner series #3)

The Death Cure is the third book in James Dashner's The Maze Runner series. It picks up the story shortly after The Scorch Trials ended. Thomas is being held in isolation by WICKED and he's still unsure whether he can trust Teresa, who believes what they're being told, that "WICKED is good."

When he's finally released and allowed to rejoin the other Gladers and members from Group B, they're all told by Assistant Director Janson that a cure for the Flare exists and that not everyone in their groups is immune. WICKED once again needs their help obtaining the cure...before it's too late for their friends.

The Death Cure is essentially the end of a trilogy. There are two more books in the series, but they're both prequels to the events of these three. And while I plan to read the prequels, I wasn't very impressed with Dashner's conclusion. There's plenty of action and he answers most of the questions that led up to this book, but I thought things ended in a cliche. There's a lot of dystopian fiction out there, and much of it is written for younger readers, like this is. So Dashner would have done himself (and me) a favor by separating himself form the others with a more unique conclusion.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

All the Pretty Horses

by Cormac McCarthy
302 pgs  (The Border trilogy #1)

All the Pretty Horses is the first book in Cormac McCarthy's Border trilogy. It's set in the late 1940s and is a coming-of-age story featuring John Grady Cole. John Grady is a 16-ear-old boy who decides to leave the Texas ranch he grew up on when he learns his other has plans to sell it. He leaves with his horse and his friend Rawlins and travels south across the border into Mexico looking for work.

Along the way, they cross paths with a young boy named Blevins. Blevins looks like he's about 13 years old, but he claims to be much older. He's a runaway, but he's riding a huge horse which is much too fine an animal to belong to a runaway. One night, during a severe thunderstorm, Blevins' horse runs away and Blevins loses the vintage Colt pistol he had been carrying. He convinces John Grady and Rawlins to accompany him to the nearest town to look for them, but when they find them, Blevins has no way to prove that hes' the original owner of either. He decides he's going to steal back his horse, which sets off a series of events that ends with John Grady sitting in a Mexican jail cell.

This is the third book by Cormac McCarthy that I've read, and I've learned that his books are the kinds that are meant to be studied more than merely read. He tells a story, but the story itself seems to be more of a vehicle to deliver the deeper message he's telling. This book is more about idealism and how the world is intent on destroying it with reality. John Grady has a strong sense of idealism, he believes there's a cowboy code of honor that, if followed, will lead him to love and success. But his experiences teach him that that's not the way the world works. John Grady is forced to make decisions in order to survive, decisions that contradict his sense of the way the world is supposed to work.

All the Pretty Horses is not an uplifting story (having read Cormac's others, I shouldn't have expected one). It is however, a great book. It's beautifully written and is another example of just how good McCarthy is.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Last Days of Night

by Graham Moore
366 pgs

Graham Moore's second book The Last Days of Night is a fantastic example of how fascinating and entertaining historical fiction can be. The story begins in 1888. The use of electricity is relatively new, and in the opening scene, Paul Cravath, a young attorney, witnesses a Western Union man being electrocuted while he tries to repair a live wire above Broadway. Blue flames shoot from his mouth, and his skin sloughs off his bones.

Later that same day, Paul meets Thomas Edison, and soon finds himself at the crux of one of the most critical and far-reaching legal battles in the history of the world. The battle over US patent #223868--the electric lamp. Eight years earlier, Edison had been granted the patent, but George Westinghouse, an equally important, if not prolific inventor, believed he had made a better one and wanted to be able to sell it. Edison sued Westinghouse for violating his patent and demanded $1 billion.

If Edison is victorious, his light bulbs, which run on direct current, would be the only ones sold, and the nation's power grid would expand across the country offering only direct current. Westinghouse, on the other hand, enlists the help of another inventor, Nikola Tesla, to find a way to use alternating current, which is safer and can be transmitted over much greater distances. The battle is over the light bulb, but the war is over who will have control of the nation's growing demand for power. The winner will quickly become one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the country.

If you're looking for an absolutely accurate telling of the events around the "War of the Currents," as it became known, I wouldn't recommend the book. Moore takes many liberties with the time frame of events, and much of the backstory for key characters is based on his own suppositions. It is, after all, historical fiction. But if you're interested in learning more about how this key time in our nation's progress, and do so while reading a highly-entertaining story, I can't recommend this one enough. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Dinosaur Lords

by Victor Milán
445 pgs  (The Dinosaur Lords series #1)

I feel compelled to begin with an explanation on this one. I mean, it is, after all, a book about medieval knights fighting while riding dinosaurs. So why would an educated, relatively well-rounded and socially adept person choose to pick up a book of this nature? The answer is pretty simple--it's a book about medieval knights fighting while riding dinosaurs. Let's move on.

The Dinosaur Lords takes place in the Empire of Neuvaropa, a fictional land similar in look and feel to Europe in the 14th century. The book, which is the beginning of a series Victor Milán is writing, introduces three main characters: Karyl Bogomirskly, the captain of a Triceratops army, who himself rides an allosaurous, Rob Korrigan, a dinosaur whisperer of sorts, and Melodia, a princess.

George R.R. Martin described the book as "...a cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones," and that's a pretty accurate description. I don't know whether the rivalries between the different feudal lords, and the lengths they'll be willing to go to in order to defeat one another will equal those in GRRM's A Song of Fire and Ice series, but it's clear Milán is not just writing a book about battles between dinosaur-riding knights.

But let me weigh in on the dinosaur-riding knights. I was expecting the dinosaur aspect of the story to be a little campy. It's not. The fact that there are dinosaurs interwoven into the story gives it a level of appeal it wouldn't otherwise have. They're not just used for battle. They're a part of all aspects of life in Neuvaropa. They're a source of food, some have been domesticated for use working the land, they're ridden during jousting tournaments for entertainment, they're used for executions, and of course there are the wild ones to be watched out for.

Milán and his new series are legitimate additions to the genre. His characters are engaging and multi-layered, his story is intelligent and entertaining, and he inserts just the right level of fantasy and the supernatural into the world he's created to let you know that there are bigger forces at play than just those who first appear.

Oh yeah, and there are dinosaurs!