**REVIEW** The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman.

(this is a review of the audiobook)
“The Lesser Book”

Having listened to two other Buehlman novels: Between Two Fires and Those Across The River, both superb listens, my expectations were understandably heightened for this latest novel. Thus my headline: The Lesser Book.

The story starts out very well with Buehlman’s masterful prose setting the scene in roughly 1970s New York City. Another item that needs to be mentioned right off the bat is that Buehlman himself does the narrating and is quite good with a variety of accents.

The story is told from a first-person perspective of Joey Peacock, a vampire who was turned into a vampire in his teenage years. However, he grew up during the Great Depression, so is quite learned and hardened beyond his years.

The novel goes into some backstory of Joey’s life before becoming a vampire, how he became a vampire, and other characters he’s gotten to know throughout his years. There are times when the story rambles and meanders (and you might excuse that to a rambling first-person narrator), but whether a story is told first-person or third-person, these odd side-streets take away from the overall momentum of the narrative.

The novel kicks into high gear when Joey Peacock meets some children (turned vampires) whom are a lot more dangerous and sinister than he first realizes. This was my favorite part of the book.

The reason (two actually) why this novel really fails in its climax is that Buehlman attempts both an unreliable narrator and a twist ending, both of which do not work at all. It seemed rather a silly bait-and-switch at the end and I was wondering why I’d listen to the entire story in the first place. Primal Fear had a fantastic twist ending. This did not. It was more like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, then changing it to a dove and saying, “Haha, fooled you!” Stories can be great 99% of the way, but if they fail to pay off at the end, it just kinda ruins the whole thing.

On a positive note, Buehlman really is a fantastic narrator!

**REVIEW** – Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

I’ve read three Brandon Sanderson novels so far and I’ve only really liked Steelheart.  This is my review of the audiobook of Firefight.

FireFight is the sequel to Steelheart (although I believe there is a short novel called Mitosis in between). The story is about the main protagonist, David, who is part of a group that call themselves the Reckoners. The Reckoners hunt down and kill mutated humans, called Epics, who have gained various supernatural powers due to an event called Calamity. This is sort like X-Men, except mostly bad X-Men. There are a few Epics who want to be good people, but the power provided by Calamity seems to drive them to more malevolent pursuits.

The beginning of the novel started out very well describing David hunting down an Epic called Sourcefield. I thought I’d been in a for another rip-roaring yarn similar to that which Sanderson put together so nicely in Steelheart. After hunting Sourcefield, the Reckoners begin a search for another Epic called Obliteration and his ally, a water Epic called Regalia. After a few skirmishes with those Epics, David runs into a previous love interest, an Epic called Firefight. Here’s where the novel really bogs down. Essentially the final half of the book is mostly a teenage, lovey-mopey, angsty-filled, conversation-heavy pining between David and Firefight. I’m not sure (because I zoned out at times during the listen) but I believe there were literally hours of yakking between David and Firefight.

Of course, the climax involves more angst and melodrama in the fate of David’s and Firefight’s relationship; as well as a hackneyed conflict created between David and his friend, Prof. Jon Phaedrus. It smacks of more contrivance.

The narration is decent. This is the same narrator from Steelheart. However, he tends to bring a nagging, shrill voice to all of the female antagonists; as well as a clichéd, chortling lilt to the male villains.

I enjoyed the first book of this series (except for the contrived ending). After this second book, I’m just not interested in finding out what happens next.

**REVIEW** – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

*Exquisitely vibrant and lush story-telling*
The author’s prose is so rich and beautifully descriptive that the reader feels positively transported into the tale of a fantastical night circus that takes place in the late 1800s/early 1900s.

The story is about a couple of elderly magicians who hold a sort of contest between their respective protégés. The contest continues until a winner is determined, and then another contest is begun with new protégés.

A young girl, Cecilia, and a young boy, Marco are picked as the next protégés in the latest contest. The two, along with the rest of the circus, travel about the world putting on incredible shows, but only at night. The author’s description of the magical talents and various spectacles that the two magicians showcase is superb and entrancing. You feel as if you are right there watching the magical displays. The sheer mastery that this author has with words is enough of a reason to get this book.

The finale is not as expected, or rather what you’d typically expect from such a story; yet it is satisfying. Bottom line: the prose is an example of how books should be written.

(My book reviews can be found here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/40559566)

**REVIEW** – The Revenant by Michael Punke

Just finished reading The Revenant by Michael Punke.  It’s quite an exciting tale and I can understand why it’ll soon be a movie.  It’s an interesting fictional take on the historical figure of Hugh Glass.  The author certainly did his research regarding the details and environment of the early frontier during that time period (1820s).  While the book did place Hugh Glass into quite a few perils (with subsequent salvations from those perils) that began to border on the contrived, I still enjoyed the overall story arc and unexpected finale.  I’d recommend it for anyone’s reading list.  Certainly read it before the movie comes out!

3 Steps.

1. Read Hyperion.

2. Realize that it is the greatest book you have ever read.

3. Thank me later.

Books & Movies!

I just don’t have enough time to read and watch all the books and movies I want to!  Recently watched “Blood Simple”.  Great movie!  It’s kinda like a mix of some Tarantino movie and No Country For Old Men.  Frances McDormand’s first movie.  Definitely recommend it.

**REVIEW** – The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

I highly recommend The Girl With All the Gifts!  I recently listened to it through audiobook format and it is a thoroughly engrossing tale.  A story of a young girl who is “different”.  I don’t want to spoil that aspect.  Great action, great characters!  One of the best books I’ve experienced in a while.

It’s a different take on the whole zombie genre. This book is about a girl who is quite intelligent, but there is something unique about her that I will not go into as I consider it a spoiler.

The book follows several perspectives: the girl’s, a research scientist, and a military officer. The author does a splendid job of character development and showing the different motivations of each character.

Definitely action-packed and suspenseful. It will keep you guessing till the end. And the finale is quite fitting.

About the Author

M. S. Valdez is an avid reader of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and some non-fiction.  His favorite author far-and-away is Stephen King.  However, his favorite novel of all time is Hyperion by Dan Simmons.  He enjoys running in the hills of Colorado and partaking in the occasional micro-brew that are plentiful along the front range.

Author photograph © 2014 by M. S. Valdez.

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EMPIRE PALADIN: Realm of the Dead

A tale of dark, brutal, and gritty historical fantasy.

The year is 1241. The Holy Roman Empire is being torn apart both by civil war and invading forces from foreign lands. The Pope has recently died leaving the Holy Church in turmoil while an ambitious Emperor seeks to consolidate his power and his holdings in the resulting power vacuum.

Camila Chastaine, a devout and righteous, paladin knight in service of the Holy Church, struggles in her duties to protect a realm of the Empire. As Camila fights to maintain order, she receives an urgent summons from Rome regarding a new threat to the Empire: a traitorous fellow paladin who has corrupted his divine powers to raise an army of undead soldiers bent on the destruction of all life. As Camila joins with her comrades to confront this peril, little does she realize that she will soon face an even greater evil in a battle for her mind and soul.

Copyright © 2015 by M. S. Valdez.