I thought I’d check out Amazon’s book recommedations to get my mind off of the pandemic.
That didn’t work.
And the worst part? Those books do look interesting!
I thought I’d check out Amazon’s book recommedations to get my mind off of the pandemic.
That didn’t work.
And the worst part? Those books do look interesting!
Tomorrow is Christmas, which means you might be looking for a few last minute presents for the kind of important people in your life. Why not get them an ebook? You can buy it at any time and it is delivered instantly! Plus, you can tell people you scheduled the delivery weeks ago so people don’t think you forgot to get them something.
I read 71 books this year and as is my tradition I will share the ones that I deemed five star worthy. Surely, any person who were to recieve any of these books as a present would be very lucky indeed.
Like books about real stuff? I generally don’t, but I did read a couple that I very much enjoyed this year.
It seems to me that novellas are making a comeback. A bunch of publishers are pushing them, which resulted in me reading a few this year. The great thing about novellas is that they aren’t too long but you still feel like you’ve read something of substance.
Since I’m a big nerd I, of course, read lots entries in series. I enjoyed all of these, but you shouldn’t start any of these series with this installment:
I've been meaning to write about the things I want to see in a new Kindle for awhile. This post has been percolating in my head for so long, in fact, that a new Kindle Oasis was released awhile back.
Of course I ordered the new Oasis as soon as it was available (after checking with Marisa, of course!) and I just finished reading a book on it (The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, which is excellent) so I feel like I can have an opinion about it. This version takes my favorite Kindle ever, the Oasis, and improves it slightly which means it is now my favorite Kindle ever.
This version doesn't add too many new features, but the additons are nice:
If you want to read a more robust review of the Oasis check out my pal Jason Snell's review. I pretty much agree with him on all points, including the fact that most people should just get a Paperwhite.
Before I share my list of desired features let me say right up front that I have no idea if any of these are feasible (well, I know some are!). That’s the lovely thing about making a list like this: I don’t have to figure out how to do it, I just know I want them!
With that out of the way, here’s my list:
Will we see anything like this in the next Kindle? I have no idea! Will I still buy whatever Kindle they come out with? Probably.
As I was writing this Jason wrote a post lamenting the Kindle’s current status and its boring future (i.e. more of the same).
Usually, I agree with Jason but this time we are in differing schools on one particular point. I would like Amazon to stick to making the Kindle disappear while you’re reading a book. Nothing too flashy is needed when it is just a container for whatever book you might be reading.
Jason suggests that perhaps Amazon missed an opportunity to make the Kindle a hub of all the text people read by offering up apps (from The NY Times and other publishers) from an App Store (I assume). That would make me sad. Several years ago I wrote about how much I liked the fact that the Kindle really one does on thing well: allows you to read a book without distraction.
I can see the allure of adding apps to the Kindle but I think that would be contrary to the entire reason the Kindle exists. Now, a Kindle Fire sporting a color eInk screen is something that I could really get into (which would include the Kindle app, and several other apps).
That’s not to say that there isn’t room for improvement with how the Kindle handles reading books, I’d just hate to see the Kindle lose focus on that (though, admittedly, Amazon doesn’t seem all that focuses on pushing the state of the art with the Kindle which is Jason’s main thesis... and one that brings us back into agreement. Hurrah! I don’t like it when we fight).
With the babies on the way I thought to myself, "I should really read a bunch of these books I own."
And I also but 14 books on hold at the library (and have 3 checked out!).
2018, in many ways, was a pretty crappy year for many people. It was, however, a pretty OK year for me personally and a great year for reading.
I managed to read 101 books this year (that’s over 35,000 pages!), the most I’ve read in a year since I’ve been keeping track. How did I do it? Well, I took the time to read books. This isn’t rocket science, people.
I always think it is interesting to see what the gender breakdown of the authors I’ve read over the year happens to be. Now, I should say that I know many folks decide at the start of the year to mindfully read more books by a certain population. While I fully support that, because who I am to tell you what to read, that isn’t something I’ve ever done with purpose. Which made it all the more surprising to me that this year I read books mostly written by women:
As I see it there are a couple of reasons for this:
Here’s my ranking breakdown of those 101 books (since I use Goodreads to track my books the ranking scale is 1 - 5):
As you can see, I’m a pretty generous 4 star giver. For me, if a book is fine (i.e. it entertains me) it gets 3 stars. A book that I think is well written and entertaining gets 4 and 5 stars go to books that I really, really liked. 2 stars go to books I wouldn't recommend to anyone, but I finished since they weren’t awful. And this year I didn’t read any 1 star books because time is too short to read books you aren’t enjoying on some level (unless you have to read them for a class. Stay in school, kids).
I know a few paragraphs ago I said it wasn’t my job to tell you what to read… but here are some books I think you should read.
Now I should say that the list below doesn’t include all of my 5 star reads of the year. You can see the full list on my Goodreads account.
One of my favorite things in the world is discovering a book series that just sucks me in, and this year it was an absolute pleasure to read the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. I read the first 9 books in the series pretty much back to back. I stopped at 9 because the 10th in the series wasn’t out yet… but it did come out this year and, of course, I read it. I also read her other series (the Magic Men Mysteries) so I think I’ve read something like 13 of her books this year… and I regret nothing.
Ruth Galloway is an unlikely sleuth (aren’t they all?). A single middle aged archeology professor at a small regional school with a very specific specialty. And yet she gets mixed up in all sorts of dangerous situations. As is the case with any mystery series the cast of recurring characters must be interesting, and Elly Griffiths delivers on that front as well. These books are a delight. The only problem is that I’ve already read them all!
Another mystery! It starts off as a pretty typical murder at a Manor but this one has a twist - the main character jumps perspectives and the story resets itself multiple times.
I don’t want to say too much about this book but I very much enjoyed it.
This book certainly doesn’t need me to tell anyone about it. The hype around it is certainly deserved. A compelling story about a horrifying episode in American history. I knew the US Government had been horrible to Native Americans but this book showed me that it was even worse than I thought.
I couldn’t have a book list without a science fiction novel on it, now could I? This book was one of the last books I read last year and one of the best. It is a sequel to Barsk which was the best novel about an elephant with psychic powers in a multiple planet spanning civilization I’d ever read. The first book, as you can imagine, was pretty banana pants (and I mean that in the best way possible). The second is even better and expands the world in ways that I wasn’t expecting but found most satisfying indeed.
The only bad thing I can say about this book is that it ends on a cliffhanger. That’s good because it means there will be another one (I hope!) but bad because I want to read it now!
I think we can all agree that the world is going to hell in a hand basket (as it has been for all of recorded human history).
The climate is going to kill us in less than 25 years, if nuclear weapons don't do it before that. The people in Washington seem to continue to lack for common sense, and the electorate (for some reason) is ever eager to reward this deficiency with more and more power. And for many people it seems like progress is being reversed, while others feel like too much is changing too quickly.
Pretty depressing, huh?
Well, good news everyone! World events have spurred me to engage in even more of my favorite solitary pastime: reading. And it looks like I'm on track to read the most books in a year since I've been keeping tabs on such things.
It isn't all bad! Just mostly.
I get asked that question, from time to time (especially at the end of the year when I share that I've read x number of books, 78 in 2017).
And interestingly, I notice that at the start of every year I see a bunch of posts/articles claiming to have the secret to how you can read more.
Here's the real secret: there is no secret to reading more.
You just have to make time for it. You know that time you spend doing something other than reading for pleasure? If you spent that time reading instead, you'd read more.
There's still a few days until Christmas, so what better time to recommend a few books that I think we well worth your time (or the time of your loved ones).
If you aren't tickled by anything on my list you should check out Jason and Dan's. Their taste is pretty ok. I guess.
My favorite aspect of this book is probably a spoiler, so I won't share but... but it is pretty darned good.
A murder mystery involving people who work/hang around a bookstore? Of course I'm going to read it. In fact, I've read a few books that meet the same general description and Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is one of the best.
Now, I will say that it suffers from the same problem that many mystery/thrillers do: all the pieces fit together a little too well. It isn't all that believable, but there is a reason this book is filed in fiction. You'll like it!
I know what you're thinking, "Another book set in WWI featuring psychics talking to dead soldiers!" but this one is good!
I will admit that I recall little of the story but Robinette Kowal is a great writer and I think this book has wider appeal than her other series (which is basically Jane Austin with magic... and of which I'm a big fan!).
The first two books in, what I assume, is a trilogy. The final book will be published in 2018, so now is the time to read the first two. And I have to tell you, you'll have no idea of what is happening for a good part of the first book... because I sure as heck didn't. But I loved it. So much. The second book is far more straightforward of a story, but it'll really make no sense if you don't read the first one.
Read them both and you'll thank me later.
I'm certain the vast majority of posts I've written here have been composedMarsEdit, and now there is a new version!
I happily paid to upgrade... now if only MarsEdit could somehow get me to write more!
Here are some posts I have been thinking about writing, instead of writing:
And that's just off the top of my head! So why haven't I been writing? I dunno. Reading is so much easier, I guess!
Anyway, hurrah for MarsEdit 4.0. I dig the snazzy new icon
Seth, the man behind the Hugos There Podcast, emailed me awhile ago to invite me onto his podcast. While I appear on a number of podcasts (and have one of my own!) I am rarely asked to appear on other people’s podcast (I can only assume because most people don’t want to talk to me, which I understand). Seth said, pick a Hugo award winning novel and we’ll chat about it.
Sounds like fun to me! I’ve read a number of the Hugo winners but I didn’t want to re-read something, so I decided to pick “Cyteen” by C.J. Cherryh. A book I knew nothing about, but an author who I had been meaning to read but had, as of yet, not gotten around to.
After I shot an email to Seth with my choice I realized two things: this book is very long (680 pages) and it isn‘t available in ebook (plus it appears to be out of print).
I ordered a used copy and then found out that while 680 pages isn’t generally that many pages… these pages are very big.
I felt bad for making Seth read this giant tome, but really isn’t it his fault for inviting me onto his podcast? Also, I suddenly realize why people don’t invite me onto their podcasts.
The book itself was good, though I‘m not sure I’d recommend anyone read it. It is chock full of big ideas, and the writing is good. But the first 100 pages or so were a bit of a chore to get through.
It did trick me into thinking that the story would be one thing and then completly change tacts not once but twice, and I liked that.
Overall, I’m glad I read it and you can hear me chat with Seth about it if you like.
Who should read it: Someone who is trying to read all the Hugo winners, C.J.Cherryh completists, 80‘s scifi fans.
Would I read it again: Once was enough, though I am going to read more Cherryh.
Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions is the 3rd in the Kopp Sisters series which follows the exploits of the first woman to be a deputy sheriff (Constance Kopp).
The first book was great! This one was… less great though an interesting book to read right after “Lean In” since the plot involves young woman going to jail just for having the nerve to leave their parent’s home and pursue a career.
The Kopp sisters are fun characters, but this book didn’t do much for me. It is well written, but lacks a compelling plot.
Who should read it: Just read the first one.
Would I read it again: Nope!
Readers of this blog might assume that I earn a living being almost Internet famous, what with my podcast, my several tech books, and this website. Sorry to burst that bubble, but I do have a day job (which I like!).
For the longest time I avoided managing people because, well, I didn’t think I’d be any good at it. However, since I’m in technology I had to decide if I wanted to go down the route of being super technical or managing people. I opted for people management, and now I manage a group of 10 people. That’s not to say I’m GOOD at it, just that I do it. And get paid for it.
Interestingly, I"m the only man on my team, which leads me to why I read “Lean In.” I was in a one on one meeting with someone who reports to me and she suggested I read this book because it could give me some insights into what women have to deal with at work.
And so I read the book. And I must say I liked it! Though I suppose I don’t like that it had to be written, I’m glad Sheryl Sandberg wrote it.
I am glad that she points out at the very start of the book that she has tremendous resources that most women don’t. Even with that setup, though, from time to time I would remember that she is a billionaire (like when she told a story about jetting off to some meeting with other CEOs, or how she got parking for pregnant women at Google by marching into the co-founders’ office).
The take away could be, well she’s so wealthy she doesn’t really get it. But as a white man reading it I took something else away from it: one should always use their privilege to help others.
I know some people don’t think that white privilege is a thing, but it is. And I benefit from it. Plus I’m a white guy, so I benefit even more! I’m not saying that everything is easy for me but I certainly have an easier time in life than most women or people of other colors (for example, I never think twice about speaking in meetings, and if I saw a police officer approaching me I would assume he was either looking for someone else or trying to offer me assistance).
Reading this book underlined something things that I already knew, and made me hope that I’m not doing all the typical male at work things she mentions
Who should read it: If you are a man who manages women you should read this book, or a book like it. Women don’t need me telling them what to read!
Robin Sloan’s work (his previous book was Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore) tends to teeter on the edge of twee. Though his is a very modern twee set, generally, in a version of San Francisco that is both recognizable and slightly off kilter from reality.
In fact, I found myself in San Franciso a few weeks ago so reading a book set in that city (though this book is “of” San Francisco the city itself doesn’t play a huge part in the narrative) was a nice reminder of my time there.
As you might expect, soudough bread plays a rather important role in this novel. Actually, the sourdough starter is far more important. The story revolves around a programmer working at a robotic arm company who ends up in possession of a mysterious sourdough starter which leads to her becoming part of a mysterious farmers’ market, and changes her life.
A story that you’ve heard a million times!
At first I was skeptical since Sloan’s first book followed a very simliar plot (though in that story a former programmer stumbles across a mysterious bookstore that changes his life), but in the end the charm and wit of the writing won me over. As did the inclusion of Silicon Valley types sucking down packets of a food subsitute called “Slurry.”
Who should read it: Foodies or techies (or techie foodies) will eat this book up. See what I did there? Eh?
Right after I finished Dead Woman Walking I wanted more from Sharon Bolton. Luckily she has written a bunch of books, though most of them are in a series. I didn’t want to jump into a series, so I bought myself a copy of “Daisy in Chains,” despite the fact that I have something like 1,000 ebooks on my Kindle and probably another 1,000 or so physical books just waiting for me to read them (in fact the next 3 books I plan on reading come from the library).
This book is more of a character study than anything else, and it does include a few shocking twists (though I did guess one of the twists).
There are murders, blue hair, gypsies, and a creepy amusement park visit during a winter’s night. What’s not to like?
Once again Bolton deploys short chapters that keep you guessing. I didn’t want to put this book down, and I gobbled it up from start to finish. I was even tempted to just jump right into Bolton’s series… but then my book debt guilt kicked in so I decided to read the books I had picked up from the library. I will be reading more Bolton soon!
Who should read it: If you like thrillers and serial killers this book is for you!
I suppose this is more of a thriller than a mystery, though there are some mysterious elements to it. You know who the bad guys are (for the most part), but it is unclear why each of the characters are mixed up in this story. And like any good thriller this book has some unexpected twists and turns (which I won’t ruin for anyone!).
The setup for this novel is brilliant: 13 people are in a hot air balloon and witness an act of violence. And then they all die in a crash… all expect for one person.
I read this book over the course of 24 hours because of Bolton’s effective use of very short chapters and an intricate weaving of a few stories spread over the course of a decade or so.
It is well written and compulsively readable. My only quibble is that it does seem remarkable that these particular characters would end up so well placed in relation to the story. However, I don’t think realism was the point of this book!
I will say that I’d never heard of Sharon Bolton before reading this book, but I plan on reading another one of her books soon!
Who should read it: If you don’t mind horrible people doing horrible things, this book is for you!
Recommending a book that is the 6th in a series isn’t something one should do, however, the Craft Sequence isn’t a normal series. If you read the series in publication order, as I have, you’re actually reading them out of chronological order. This might seem strange, but the upshot is you can pretty much start the series at any of the books. And you should.
I’m not a huge fan of urban fantasy, which is why I was so surprised when I read a review of “Ruin of Angels” describing it as such. Upon further reflection it does make sense: this is a world where lines of contracts power magic, ever living skeletons run corporations, and gods trade faith for power.
Ruin of Angels is a good jumping on point, and for $3 (ebook) it is a great deal. If you’ve read any of the other books in the series you’ll recognize some of the characters featured.
I suppose I should point out that all the main characters are women, which I guess is either a plus or minus depending on your point of view.
Who should read it: Anyone who has read any of the Craft Sequence, or if you’ve ever wondered what a space program powered by magic might look like.
Adam Roberts is one of those authors who writes whatever they want, and damn the marketability. Generally I enjoy his work, and he is a very talented writer. This book wasn't his best work, though I did think it was quite interesting and I almost enjoyed just as a physical object.
The cover is gorgeous, and the illustrations are generally very good but… the copy editing is just bad. I usually don't even notice the odd mistake here and there, but this book was littered with them. It was distracting (and not the author's fault, but it didn't do him any favors).
The story is heavily influenced/extends 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A French experimental submarine goes off on a test run and dives. And dives. And dives deeper than the ocean should allow a submarine to dive.
And then things get crazy, and none of it is good for the crew.
I would say this book ends up being interesting rather than good.
Who should read it: Big fans of Jules Verne and French people, I guess?
Trilogies can be tough. The first book is exciting because you're discovering a whole new world populated with interesting characters (at least in good ones!), the second book generally moves the story along and not much more, and the third book… the pressure is on to stick the landing. If you have a bad conclusion it can have the power to sour people on the previous two books, plus who is going to recommend a trilogy with a bad final book?
I'm happy to report that The Stone Sky, the final volume in the fantastic The Broken Earth trilogy, does not disappoint. It is a well written and satisfying conclusion to a very good trilogy. Seriously, if you haven't read any of these books you should totally do it.
My one complaint is an odd one: I almost feel like the third book explained too much of how the world got to be the way it is in the trilogy. Now, I know that lots of people will be very happy to find out the details, but I think I would have preferred a little more ambiguity. That's just me, though, since I tend to enjoy books where I have little idea what is going on (which was pretty much the case in the first two books of this series).
I won't bother to try and recap what this book is about, but I will say it is a very interesting mix of fantasy and science fiction.
Who should read it: If you're read the first two books you'll need to read this one. And you should read the first two.
Would I read it again: I can imagine myself re-reading this trilogy again at some point (much like the Foundation trilogy, which is probably my favorite trilogy of all time).
The world is anything but cozy at the moment what with severe weather, missile launching madmen, and more than one Trump in the White House (I know, some of you are happy about that… though I have no idea how you could STILL be happy about it. I get voting for him… kind of… but it is pretty clear he's not suited for the job) and so I turn to books that'll transport me to a nice, gentle place. Oh, and include a murder.
That's right, I read the cozy mystery “Plaid And Plagiarism,” and I gosh darn enjoyed it. It isn't a heartbreaking work of literature, or a particularly good mystery, but it is like slipping into a warm woolen sweater. Plus it features a number of women characters, which is always nice. And I didn't even mean to read it! Marisa picked it up at the library and I saw it laying on the table… and read it.
The high number of women in the book isn't a surprise given the story centers around four women who buy a bookstore in Scotland, and end up involved in a murder of a local. The two main characters (the older of the four) were a little hard to tell apart at the start of the book, but soon developed unique characteristics that helped me remember who was who.
The central murder isn't dwelled upon, and it seems to not trouble the townsfolk as much as I think it would (even if the victim wasn't the most popular person). Oh, and the title does sort of gives a plot point away, which is a shame but I understand the allure of alliteration.
This is clearly the start of a series, and while I won't excitedly be looking for the next installment I'd certainly pick it up and read it if I found it laying around the house. Ok, so that doesn't sound like a glowing recommendation but really it is a fun little book.
Who should read it: If you like a quick read with a gentle murder set amongst book lovers I think you'd like this.
Would I read it again: I should probably get rid of this section since I almost always say, “No.” Which is a long way of saying, no.
A good hook is important for any book, but I feel like it is doubly important for mysteries. There are thousands and thousands of them, and to stand out you need to come up with something unique. “Arrowood” takes the reader to well trodden territory: Sherlock Holmes' England. The hook? Sherlock exists, but not everyone can afford him. When you need someone to help but you can't afford Holmes (or he isn't interested in your case) you turn to Arrowood.
Holmes is a big presence in this book, but he never appears. Arrowood is an investigator, just like Holmes. He has a plucky assistant, just like Holmes. He has an erudite air about him though isn't rich, just like Holmes.
And many characters in the book bring up these similarities much to Arrowood's chagrin. He isn't a Sherlock fan, thinking that Sherlock is mostly lucky (everyone is sure Sherlock is a genius. I assume the two will interact with one another at some point in the future if there are more Arrowood books).
I though the setup of the book was very interest, and the mystery was complex enough. However, the overall execution of this great idea was… well… fine. It wasn't amazing, nor was it bad. It was fine.
Who should read it: This would be a good beach read, I think. If you like to read about darkish mysteries on the beach, that is.
Would I read it again: Nope but I will keep an eye out for the sequel.
I have something like 1,000 books (both electronic and physical) that I haven't read as of yet, but I still find myself at the library once or twice a month. Usually I'm there to pick up a book I've placed on reserve, but while I'm there I check out the books on display.
And that's how I come across books from authors I've never heard of, and probably would never hear of during my normal travels about town. This time I picked up “Sputnik's Children” by a Canadian author (Terri Favro) on a whim.
This book combines a few things that I enjoy: super heroes, time travel, parallel universes, and a slightly unreliable narrator. My favorite part of the book? Some details make me think it is entirely possible that this entire story happens only in the mind of the main character (either version of the main character at that!).
The stories follows a comic book creator whose creation, the girl without a past, is based on her life story. The twist? She isn't from around here… she's from an alternate timeline. Or is she?
Once again I don't want to get into the story too much, but it is interesting and well written to boot!
Who should read it: If you like comic books, time travel, or pending nuclear doom this book is for you.
Would I read it again: As usual, I probably won't re-read this book, but I will read Favro's next book.
The follow up to “Missing, Presumed” does not disappoint. You know you're reading a good mystery when you say, “Oh no!” out loud at the end of a chapter.
This installment finds Manon Bradshaw back where she started with an adopted son in tow. Oh, and she's pregnant (the identity of the father isn't revealed early on which lends a bit of tension if you've read the prior books).
It is interesting that the main character, Manon, isn't really involved in the central mystery as an investigator. I don't want to say too much more because I don't want to give anything away.
My only issue with the book comes in the form of the character “Birdie.” The author makes a pretty big deal about the fact that Birdie is fat, and I just got the feeling that this was a thin person writing what they think a fat person should act like. Just one fat guy's opinion.
That's a very minor quibble, though, in an otherwise gripping read.
Who should read it: Anyone who enjoyed the first one.
Would I read it again: I want to read the next one right now!
Ishmael Jones, the hero of this Green series, is an interesting character even if he talks pretty much like every other Green character. He's an alien that crashed landed onto earth in the 60's and who's ship recoded his body to be human. Though in the process he lost his memory, so he's been working for a variety of secret organizations (which is what all of Simon R. Green's characters do). They get his services, and he gets to move around and lay low even though he seemingly never ages.
Green takes this interesting character and throws him into mysteries that have a dash of the supernatural. This novel finds Jones, and his lady friend, on the shore of Loch Ness in a great house with a sorted history that is playing host to a secret cabal's annual meeting. Someone, or something, is killing people and Jones needs to find out who!
It is pretty obvious who is doing the killing, but it was an enjoyable tale (and much better than the last Green book I read. I do find it amusing that Jones isn't a fan of the ghost hunting organization that makes up the main cast of the series of which I am not much of a fan).
Overall, this did what I expect of a Green novel: took a few hours to read, made me chuckle a couple of times, and was generally pleasant despite the amount of gore.
Who should read it: If you like supernatural mysteries and manor houses you could do worse than this book.
Would I read it again: Nope, but I'll read the next in the series (I won't buy it, of course!).
Fellow Incomparable folks have been singing the praises of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King for a very long time and yet I've been resistant to start reading it. I think mostly because I have boxed away King in my head as a horror writer and I am not so into horror as a genre.
I know this is unfair to the very talented Mr. King, and so with the advent of the movie based on the Dark Tower series I figured now was a great time to try and borrow the book from the library. You know, when everyone else had the same exact idea:
I was content to wait my turn when from the North came a Bookslinger who ended my wait by shooting the ebook onto my Kindle:
(Thanks again, John!).
Now I really had to read it! Though I was concerned that I wouldn't like it and disappoint some people I jumped into it.
The first thing I realized when I started reading was that I really knew nothing about the Dark Tower series (I assumed a tower was somehow involved). This ignorance was cleared up by not one but TWO forewords by the author in the edition I read. It was interesting to read the two and notice how his writing style has evolved over time, plus I found out this was King's attempt to write an Arthurian legend set in the Old West.
That was a bit of a red flag for me: I'm not big into westerns but while The Gunslinger is certainly informed by westerns (and people in it love to palaver) it is really something else entirely.
The book does a good job of setting up Roland and the Man in Black as opposing forces in the quest for the Tower. Really, the whole book is one long case scene intercut with some world building (that train station!) and flashbacks to Roland's life. It was well structured and a quick read.
It does suffer from what some first books can suffer from: a lot of setting up the pieces on the board but not much actually happens. There are some encounters with mutants, some death, and eating some rabbits but mostly this book is about one dude following another one across a desert, over the mountains, and then camping with him for a little bit.
The real question is: was it good enough to make me want to read the next book in the series? Yes, it was. I've already but a hold on it at the library. Now I just have to wait for 50 people to read it ahead of me.
Who should read it: I assume if you're a fan of Stephen King you've already read it, but if you are and you haven't… you should!
Would I read it again: Nah, but I will read the next one.
A few years ago we were vacationing in the Hudson Valley. I found myself at a bookstore and I picked up a copy of “New Pompeii” on a whim (and based on the subject matter + the cover). It was entertaining, so when I realized a sequel had been published I bought myself a copy.
Empire of Time jumps ahead 15 years and shows us what has been happening in New Pompeii. Oh yeah, you need to know that there's a time machine in these books capable of plucking things out of the past and bringing them forward in time (but it only works 30 years distant and beyond… or does it?!). A company that created this machine plucked people from Pompeii right before the eruption and settled them into an exact replica of Pompeii (minus the water in the harbor, which was a big tip off to the Romans that they weren't in Kansas anymore).
Things go off the rails in the first book, and 15 years later things seem to have settled down in New Pompeii, though the outside world is falling apart. The main character, Nick, is a modern day man who functions as New Pompeii's ambassador. The world isn't too big on New Pompeii since the Romans continue to have slaves, but the world can't get enough of the garum and knockoff frescos New Pompeii produces so people overlook the slaves.
I don't want to get into too much detail, but this is a very satisfying conclusion to the story (though I don't know if there will be another entry in the series, there certainly could be but you aren't left hanging at the end of this book). To enjoy this book, though, you do need to read the first one.
Who should read it: Anyone who read the first one! And if you like Roman history, you should read the first one.
Would I read it again: I think I would read the series again at some point in the distant future.