Just wanted to pass along some (very) quick thoughts on two books I read recently..
Damage Control (Jonathan Grave Thriller) by John Gilstrap
I finished this one about 3 weeks ago, and it was so good I couldn't let it go without mentioning it here. While this is the 4th book in the Jonathan Grave series, you don't need to have read the first 3 to read the new one (this was the first in the series for me). The author does a good job of filling in details from the previous books, but not enough to ruin them if you want to go back and read them. Grave is a "rescue specialist", which makes this a little different from the assassin/espionage thrillers I usually read. The lead character is fantastic, as is the supporting cast. I really liked all of them, and plan to read the earlier novels before book 5 comes out next summer. There was quite a bit of action..it never really let up until the end. I know this ultra brief review isn't doing the book justice, but this one was one of my favorite reads of the year...definitely my favorite thriller book so far in 2012. Nonstop action, great writing, likeable characters, believable situations..highest recommendation.
Alpha by Greg Rucka
This one I am a little more mixed on. The premise is great..a terrorist situation at a theme park, with most of the story taking place in a just a few hours. It also happens to be the first of a new series, staring Jad Bell. Being the 1st in the series, the pacing to start was a bit uneven, as details about Bell's past are thrown in for character development. The story never comes to a halt, but the portion prior to the meat of the novel was slow at times. Luckily Bell is a likeable enough guy (though not as much as Grave). I think I might have liked this better if I hadn't read it right after the Gilstrap book...any book I read following that one was bound to be a bit of a letdown. Anyway, once we hit the heart of the story, when the terrorists take over the theme park, the book improves quite a bit. Rucka knows how to write action scenes as well as anyone, and writing in the present tense really helps. However, the early pacing problems, and lack of character development beyond Bell make this just a good read, not a great one. I think Bell is capable of leading a series, though, so I will plan on reading the next one.
Last week I pre-ordered Paladins of Shannara: Allanon's Quest by Terry Brooks, and late Sunday night it was delivered to my iPad. I decided to read it while riding the bike at lunch yesterday, and finished it in 30 minutes (I'm not a fast or slow read..just about average). It's hard to come up with too much to say on such a short read, but I can say I enjoyed it. I felt the price is right at $0.99, and it tells a nice quick story. The short story relates events involved just prior to the start of The Sword of Shannara, so if you are a fan of that classic (as I very much am), I would definitely recommend spending a buck to read this short prequel. It would have been neat to see this story stretched a bit, maybe more of a novella length (but that is probably because I enjoy that time period of Shannara more than any other).
It also makes me want to read some of the Shannara books I have missed, as I really haven't read much after the Heritage series...which means I still need to read The Word and The Void, The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, High Druid of Shannara, Genesis of Shannara, Legends of Shannara, & the forthcoming The Dark Legacy of Shannara. I'm not a big fan of the earth/fantasy world combo stories...those where part of the story takes place in the real world, so I'm not sure when I would read The Word and the Void series. I'm even a bit uncertain about the Genesis series, in case it has too much modern day stuff. Since I am so far behind, I almost wonder if I should just start over from the beginning and follow the reading order suggested on the author's site (the order for returning readers). Part of me knows I don't have time to catch up on the series now, so I might just start reading the new series when it debuts next month.
I am also very much looking forward to this!
I had purchased the original iPad thinking it would become my main reading device, but it never happened. I'm not sure if I'm just picky or if my eyes are sensitive to it, but the pixelation on the original iPad drove me crazy. I couldn't stand to read on it for long periods of time. And after a little while, I hardly used it. Our OG iPad basically turned into a Netflix display for our 4 year old. When the iPad 2 came out with the same screen resolution, I immediately dismissed it. Just wasn't interested. Plus, I had become an Android guy. I got irritated with how closed the Apple devices were. I preferred Android because I could treat it almost like a computer. I could browse the file system, use miniSD cards for more memory, switch out the keyboard app...pretty much make it do whatever I wanted. As you know, the Apple devices are much more limited in that respect. Over the last year, I bought just about every Android tablet out there. And I returned every one of them within the 14 or 30 day return window. I kept hearing about how the latest version of Android would be better for tablets, but I never noticed it. Well, the OS did get better, but the tablet app market never did. It seemed like most of the apps I wanted were on iOS devices. Or, if they were on Android, their functionality or appearance was inferior to the iOS version. Eventually, I got fed up and tired of waiting for the Android tablets to catch up the iPad. Sure, the specs on many of the Android tablets were better, but what good are better specs if the apps are inferior? Not much point in owning a geeked out tablet if I can't do anything I want with it. So, once the rumors started regarding the iPad 3, I paid attention. When mention of a new high-res screen popped up, I was very interested. I followed along on the Engadget live-blog during the Apple iPad event. And ended up hitting the Apple web store constantly that afternoon until I could place my order. I finally got my order placed about 2-3 hours after the event, taking delivery of the new iPad on its Friday release. With all that out of the way, what do I think of the new iPad?
Let me say right away the upgrade was definitely worth it. The new retina display you've heard about is beautiful. Text looks clear and sharp. Pictures (hi-res) pop off the screen. Reading on this thing is a pretty great experience (if you don't mind a backlit screen). This new iPad will most likely become my primary reading device. I happen to own a Kobo Touch, a Kindle Touch 3G, and a Nook Touch. I plan to keep just one of those, and sell the other 2 on Craigslist or Mobileread (if you are interested in my Kobo Touch or Kindle Touch 3G, shoot me an email. Maybe we can work something out.) I watched a couple of 1080p trailers from the Apple website and they look stunning. I haven't really tried out any of the new higher resolution games. I did buy a couple of board games, Carcassonne and Ticket To Ride (have yet to play them, though). So for the first week, I have used it mainly to read..and as a reading device, I highly recommend it. I thought some of you might be wondering how the new screen would be for reading, so I thought I would pass along my thoughts on that.
Don't be surprised if you see the occasional iPad game review, though I'm not a big gamer so there won't be a ton of them.
If you have any questions, ask them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer.
Edit to add: While I have given up for now on the Android tablet idea, I do still prefer Android for my phone.
I'm glad to report that Kings of Morning by Paul Kearney was just as good as I had hoped and expected (it was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year, along with forthcoming The Dusk Watchman by Tom Lloyd). As you know by now I don't do long reviews well, but I did want to write a quick blurb to recommend this one. The entire Macht series is fantastic, and while I don't have a "real" list of my top 10 all time series, I have to imagine the Macht would be in it. I do know is one of my top 3 favorite series of the past several years. I've never been into military fantasy too much. Not because I dislike it, just haven't read a lot of it. But Kearney has made me a fan. It's rare when I can't think of something negative to say about a book, much less 3 of them. But for me at least, this series was dang near perfect. Kings of Morning was an excellent, emotional ending to an excellent, emotional series. I'll admit to getting a bit misty eyed a few times in the last 1/3 of the book. And you know a book (and series) has really connected with you when you feel true sadness (and a slight depression) when you read the last page, knowing there are no more books with the characters and world you have grown to love.
Highly, highly, highly recommended. Now I am looking forward to reading the Sea Beggars series later this year when the omnibus comes out. I have the original 2 books, but am waiting for the series to be complete before I read it. Can't wait!
Once again, almost 2 weeks goes by between finishing a book and writing the review..which for me is never a good thing. But I did want to throw out a recommendation for Thief's Covenant, if nothing else. Because I thought that overall, it was a great read. It is the first YA book published by Pyr (I believe), and it happens to be the first in the Widdershins Adventures series. Don't let that YA moniker fool you, though, as if this book was a movie, I would rate it PG-13. It has its share of violence, and I would say the target audience for this is teens and up. Most of the time, I had to remind myself that I was not reading an adult novel.
...next was is a bunch of stuff I typed up and deleted. While writing this post, I read another new review of this book, and since I agree with everything he said, I will save you the agony of reading more of my review and tell you to go read Stefan's review at Civilian Reader.
I will close by saying I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed Thief's Covenant. I stayed up a little later each night cuz I couldn't make myself top reading. And it definitely made my gym time (I read while riding the bike/elliptical machine) go by a lot faster. I'm even expecting it to make my top 10 of 2012 list.