Mini Reviews

Hey guys,

Finished walking the Camino a couple of days ago. 613km in 25 days of walking. Not too bad an accomplishment, if I do say so yself! ;-)

The first 20 days were everything I wanted it to be, but the last 5 days were an absolute circus. Sarria is the closest city to Santiago from which you can begin walking and get your Compostela at the end. From there, the Camino becomes an awful experience. Huge groups of fat and overweight people create gridlock at every turn. Not to mention school kids traveling in groups of over a hundred people. Anyone looking for peace and quiet and instrospection will not find it beyond Sarria. I almost quit in Palas de Rei, because this experience had taken a turn for the worse and was going down the crapper fast. I persevered, though, and made it to Santiago de Compostela.

For the record, I encourage everyone to walk the Camino de Santiago, even if it's just portions of the 790km itinerary. But unless you are a hardcore Christian, stop in Sarria and be happy. Everything beyond that point is just painful and will make you want to kill everyone. :/

On to the mini reviews I promised you!


- Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Canada, USA, Europe) 8/10

I really enjoyed this thriller. Partly because there are no supernatural elements and partly because the cast is comprised of an interesting bunch of characters. It's a race against time seen through the perspective of both the good and the bad protagonists. If you're looking for a novel to bring with you on vacation this summer, this one is exactly what you're looking for!

Here's the blurb:

The stolen Mercedes emerges from the pre-dawn fog and plows through a crowd of men and women on line for a job fair in a distressed American city. Then the lone driver backs up, charges again, and speeds off, leaving eight dead and more wounded. The case goes unsolved and ex-cop Bill Hodges is out of hope when he gets a letter from a man who loved the feel of death under the Mercedes’s wheels…

Brady Hartsfield wants that rush again, but this time he’s going big, with an attack that would take down thousands—unless Hodges and two new unusual allies he picks up along the way can throw a wrench in Hartsfield’s diabolical plans. Stephen King takes off on a “nerve-shredding, pulse-pounding race against time” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) with this acclaimed #1 bestselling thriller.



- Finders Keepers by Stephen King (Canada, USA, Europe) 7.5/10

As much as I was happy to read about Bill, Jerome, and Holly, by far the most unlikely trio of crime-solving agents you'll ever meet, there really was no need for them to be part of this story. Any other bunch of characters would have done the job. Still, it was great to see such character growth in Holly. It's a fine tale, yet overall it's sort of a filler job to keep them busy before the third act in the third installment, End of Watch.

Here's the blurb:

“Wake up, genius.” So announces deranged fan Morris Bellamy to iconic author John Rothstein, who once created the famous character Jimmy Gold and hasn’t released anything since. Morris is livid, not just because his favorite writer has stopped publishing, but because Jimmy Gold ended up as a sellout. Morris kills his idol and empties his safe of cash, but the real haul is a collection of notebooks containing John Rothstein’s unpublished work...including at least one more Jimmy Gold novel. Morris hides everything away before being locked up for another horrific crime. But upon Morris’s release thirty-five years later, he’s about to discover that teenager Pete Saubers has already found the stolen treasure—and no one but former police detective Bill Hodges, along with his trusted associates Holly Gibney and Jerome Robinson, stands in the way of his vengeance....

Not since Misery has Stephen King played with the notion of a reader and murderous obsession, in this #1 acclaimed bestseller filled with “nail biting suspense that’s the hallmark of [his] best work” (Publishers Weekly).



- Network Effect by Martha Wells (Canada, USA, Europe) 9/10

You may recall that I mentioned that the author needed to up her game in whatever came after the novellas. because as fun and entertaining as they were, it was all becoming a little redundant. Well, she surely did and elevated Network Effect to another level. At first, it felt a little like more of the same. But when Wells kicks the story into high gear, then it becomes a thrilling ride that makes you want to beg for more. If you haven't read the Murderbot Diaries, you should make it a priority!

Here's the blurb:

I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot's human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.


More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Margaret Weis' The Lost King for 6.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada. These space opera books were a big hit when they were published inthe 90s and I've always had a soft spot for them. They've been described as Battlestar Galactica meets Game of Thrones, and I guess that's a good description.

Here's the blurb:

A galactic revolution has toppled the Starfire dynasty, and swept into power the harsh Democratic Republic. To support the murdered king is now punishable by death. But on distant worlds, the few surviving Guardians carry a dangerous secret: Somewhere in the galaxy, they shield the rightful heir to the throne.

Stalking the hidden king is the warlord, a ruthless Republican general who wields the bloodsword. Only a few brave rebels dare to oppose him: young Dion who fights to find his destiny: the mercenary Tusk, the outlaw commander Dixter, and the beautiful Lady Maigrey, the only person alive who can match the the Warlord's cunning. Theirs is the ultimate battle against a star-spanning corruption – the ultimate sacrifice for the glory of the lost king's throne.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Robert R. McCammon's The Monster Novels omnibus: Stinger, The Wolf's Hour, and Mine for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

From a New York Times–bestselling and Bram Stoker Award–winning author: Three novels with monsters ranging from alien to werewolf to vengeful moms.

Whether writing Southern Gothic horror or reinventing the monster genre, World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Award–winning author Robert R. McCammon proves himself a master of a wide spectrum of modern horror and dark fantasy. In these three novels, McCammon presents a terrifying predator from another world, a werewolf war hero, and two crazy moms you do not want to mess with.

Stinger: Ever since the copper mine closed, the West Texas desert hellholes of Inferno and Bordertown have been slowly dying. Snake River isn’t the only thing that divides them. Racism, gang wars, and anti-Mexican sentiment have turned the sun-scorched flatlands into a powder keg. If anything can unite them for now, at least in awe and wonder, it’s the UFO that comes soaring out of the clouds like a flaming locomotive.

In the wake of the crash, a young alien named Daufin has arrived, too. A fugitive who has taken the form of a human, she knows the terror that awaits the inhabitants of this planet—because it is looking for her.

When Stinger, the monstrous alien bounty hunter, arrives, it’s with a destructive fury and a devious plan to find Daufin—by entombing the residents in an impenetrable and inescapable dome. A relentless killing machine, Stinger has an infinite capacity for death and destruction. And over the next twenty-four hours, this town is going to bleed and burn. Now, the few remaining survivors must come together to protect Daufin, themselves, and the world beyond from total annihilation.

From the New York Times–bestselling and Bram Stoker Award–winning author of Swan Song, Stinger was called “one of the best suspense novels of recent years” by the Science Fiction Chronicle.

The Wolf's Hour: Master spy, Nazi hunter—and werewolf on the prowl—in occupied Paris: A classic of dark fantasy from a Bram Stoker Award—winning author.

Allied Intelligence has been warned: A Nazi strategy designed to thwart the D-Day invasion is underway. A Russian émigré turned operative for the British Secret Service, Michael Gallatin has been brought out of retirement as a personal courier. His mission: Parachute into Nazi-occupied France, search out the informant under close watch by the Gestapo, and recover the vital information necessary to subvert the mysterious Nazi plan called Iron Fist.

Fearlessly devoted to the challenge, Gallatin is the one agent uniquely qualified to meet it—he’s a werewolf.

Now, as shifting as the shadows on the dangerous streets of Paris, a master spy is on the scent of unimaginable evil. But with the Normandy landings only hours away, it’s going to be a race against time. For Gallatin, caught in the dark heart of the Third Reich’s twisted death machine, there is only one way to succeed. He must unleash his own internal demons and redefine the meaning of the horror of war.

From the award-winning author of Swan Song and Boy’s Life, this is a “powerful novel [that] fuses WWII espionage thriller and dark fantasy. Richly detailed, intricately plotted, fast-paced historical suspense is enhanced by McCammon’s unique take on the werewolf myth” (Publishers Weekly).

Mine: Adrift in the 1980s and slowly losing her mind, a heavily armed former '60s radical kidnaps a baby with the hope, deluded as it may be, of returning her life to simpler times. The child's mother, though, isn't about to take it lying down and, along with a tracker, begins a cross-country chase to get her child back.


This week's New York Times Bestsellers (May 29th)

In hardcover:

Holly Black's Book of Night is down three sots, finishing the week at number 5. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Mike Chen's Star Wars: Brotherhood debuts at number 11. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Emily St. John Mandel's Sea of Tranquility is down six positions, ending the week at number 13. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Dan Simmons' Drood for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens -- at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world and perhaps in the history of the world -- hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever.

Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident? Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepening obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies, and a hidden subterranean London mere research . . . or something more terrifying?

Just as he did in The Terror, Dan Simmons draws impeccably from history to create a gloriously engaging and terrifying narrative. Based on the historical details of Charles Dickens's life and narrated by Wilkie Collins (Dickens's friend, frequent collaborator, and Salieri-style secret rival), Drood explores the still-unsolved mysteries of the famous author's last years and may provide the key to Dickens's final, unfinished work: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Chilling, haunting, and utterly original, Drood is Dan Simmons at his powerful best.


More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Madeline Miller's Circe for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child -- not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power -- the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world.



You can also download Vaishnavi Patel's Kaikeyi for only 3.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.

So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on tales of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.

Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.

But as the evil from her childhood stories threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. And Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak—and what legacy she intends to leave behind.


Mini Reviews


Hey there!

In case you don't check out the Hotlist's Facebook page from time to time, you might not be aware of the reason why I aven't reviewed anything in almost a month. Well, I flew to Spain on May 22nd and I've been walking the Camino de Santiago since then. With about 335km under my belt, I now find myself in San Justo de la Vega for a much-needed day off. Understandably, walking an average of 25km under the hot sun with basically no shade every day leaves me too exhausted to write reviews.

But since I do keep on reading, usually with a cold sangria or cerveza to keep me company while I do so, I've decided to resort to mini reviews once again. Otherwise I'll be too far behind when I get back home. Things should return to normal upon my return in July.


- Perdido Street Station by China Miéville (Canada, USA, Europe) 6/10

Oddly enough, I bought this book the year it came out. But for some reason, I never read it. As it garnered rave reviews and awards, I knew I needed to give it a shot ASAP, but it never happened. I finally decided to do so earlier this spring and I'm not sure it was a good idea.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, or maybe this novel just isn't for me, yet it took everything I had just to finish it. I almost quit several times, only to persevere, hoping for a payoff that never came. Perdido Street Station is an extremely well-written novel and a feat of imagination. But the plot and the characterization are subpar to say the least.

Took me over a month to finish it, and by that time I could care less about how it ended.

Here's the blurb:

The metropolis of New Crobuzon sprawls at the center of the world. Humans and mutants and arcane races brood in the gloom beneath its chimneys, where the river is sluggish with unnatural effluent and foundries pound into the night. For a thousand years, the Parliament and its brutal militias have ruled over a vast economy of workers and artists, spies and soldiers, magicians, crooks, and junkies.

Now a stranger has arrived, with a pocketful of gold and an impossible demand. And something unthinkable is released.

The city is gripped by an alien terror. The fate of millions lies with a clutch of renegades. A reckoning is due at the city’s heart, in the vast edifice of brick and wood and steel under the vaults of Perdido Street Station.

It is too late to escape.


- Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (Canada, USA, Europe) 8/10

This is the fourth and last installment in Wells' initial Murderbot cycle and it closes the show in satisfying fashion. It goes without saying that it leaves the door open for plenty more adventures/misadventures to come.

I really enjoyed these four novellas, but too much of the plot always involved Murderbot saving a bunch of clueless and often stupid people. In the future, I'm hoping that the author elevates her game and brings this series to another level. I'm currently reading Network Effect, the first novel in the Murderbot Diaries, and it appears that Wells has done just that. Time will tell.

But if you are curious and have yet to give the first novellas a shot, I suggest you do so.

Here's the blurb:

Murderbot wasn’t programmed to care. So, its decision to help the only human who ever showed it respect must be a system glitch, right?

Having traveled the width of the galaxy to unearth details of its own murderous transgressions, as well as those of the GrayCris Corporation, Murderbot is heading home to help Dr. Mensah—its former owner (protector? friend?)—submit evidence that could prevent GrayCris from destroying more colonists in its never-ending quest for profit.

But who’s going to believe a SecUnit gone rogue?

And what will become of it when it’s caught?


That's it for now, folks. Next up will be Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers. Now I'm going to take it easy, for tomorrow is one of the most difficult stages of the entire Camino. I'm starting to climb the Cantabrian Mountains, walking up to Foncebadon. A little over 29km of walking, with an elevation gain of more than 600m. I have a feeling I'll be too tired to do much once I get there. . . ;-)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (May 22nd)

In hardcover:

Holly Black's Book of Night debuts at number 2. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Emily St. John Mandel's Sea of Tranquility is down two positions, ending the week at number 7. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Neil Gaiman's Coralinefor only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.

But there's another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wits and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Naomi Novik's Uprooted for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Dan Simmons' Hugo award-winning classic, Hyperion, for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope--and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Alastair Reynolds' scifi classic, Revelation Space, for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The highly-acclaimed first novel in the Revelation Space universe.

When human colonists settled the Amarantin homeworld, few of them bothered to question the disappearance of its native population almost a million years before. But in the year 2551, one man, Dan Sylveste, is convinced that solving the riddle of the Amarantin is vital to human survival. As he nears the truth, he learns that someone wants him dead. Because the Amarantin were destroyed for a reason. And if that reason is made public, the universe—and reality itself—could be forever altered. This sprawling operatic novel ranges across vast gulfs of time and space to arrive at a terrifying conclusion.

Alastair Reynolds, who holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy, has written a vivid and action-packed story that will linger in the minds of its readers.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (May 15th)

In hardcover:
 
Emily St. John Mandel's Sea of Tranquility is up one position, ending the week at number 5. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Neal Stephenson's Termination Shock for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

New York Times Bestseller

From Neal Stephenson—who coined the term “metaverse” in his 1992 novel Snow Crash—comes a sweeping, prescient new thriller that transports readers to a near-future world in which the greenhouse effect has inexorably resulted in a whirling-dervish troposphere of superstorms, rising sea levels, global flooding, merciless heat waves, and virulent, deadly pandemics.

One man—visionary billionaire restaurant chain magnate T. R. Schmidt, Ph.D.—has a Big Idea for reversing global warming, a master plan perhaps best described as “elemental.” But will it work? And just as important, what are the consequences for the planet and all of humanity should it be applied?

Ranging from the Texas heartland to the Dutch royal palace in the Hague, from the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas to the sunbaked Chihuahuan Desert, Termination Shock brings together a disparate group of characters from different cultures and continents who grapple with the real-life repercussions of global warming. Ultimately, it asks the question: Might the cure be worse than the disease?

Epic in scope while heartbreakingly human in perspective, Termination Shock sounds a clarion alarm, ponders potential solutions and dire risks, and wraps it all together in an exhilarating, witty, mind-expanding speculative adventure.


More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Daniel Abraham's Age of Ash for only 3.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

From New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author Daniel Abraham, co-author of The Expanse, comes a monumental epic fantasy trilogy that unfolds within the walls of a single great city, over the course of one tumultuous year, where every story matters, and the fate of the city is woven from them all.

Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold.

This is Alys's.

When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why. But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives.

Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything.


More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Alastair Reynolds' excellent Chasm City for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

Return to the dazzling world of Revelation Space with this British Science Fiction Award-winning space opera about a young man hell-bent on revenge on the surface of a twisted, disease-corrupted planet.

The once-utopian Chasm City -- a domed human settlement on an otherwise inhospitable planet -- has been overrun by a virus known as the Melding Plague, capable of infecting any body, organic or computerized. Now, with the entire city corrupted -- from the people to the very buildings they inhabit -- only the most wretched sort of existence remains. For security operative Tanner Mirabel, it is the landscape of nightmares through which he searches for a lowlife postmortal killer. But the stakes are raised when his search brings him face to face with a centuries-old atrocity that history would rather forget.


More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Christopher Golden's Ararat for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden’s Ararat is a supernatural thriller about a mountain adventure that quickly turns into a horrific nightmare of biblical proportions.

Ararat is the heart-pounding tale of an adventure that goes wrong…on a biblical scale. When an earthquake reveals a secret cave hidden inside Mount Ararat in Turkey, a daring newly engaged couple are determined to be the first ones inside…and what they discover will change everything.

The cave is actually a buried ancient ship that many quickly come to believe is Noah’s Ark. When a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses. Inside the coffin they find something hideous. Shock and fear turn to horror when a massive blizzard blows in, trapping them thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain. All they can do is pray for safety. But something wicked is listening to their prayers…and it wants to answer.


This week's New York Times Bestsellers (May 8th)

In hardcover:
 
Emily St. John Mandel's Sea of Tranquility is down three positions, ending the week at number 6. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.