Sunday, December 31, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 43 - The Gospel According to St. John

published by Zondervan

Started: Dec. 29
Finished: Dec. 31

Notes: Seeing that it's the end of the year, I thought I'd finish my 2023 Bible readings with the last of the gospels.

Mini review: I found this to be the most lyrical of the gospels, and the most different when it comes to the timeline of events revolving around Jesus, which are probably some of the main reasons this book is not considered one of the Synoptic Gospels. Also, perhaps it is because I had fairly recently read the other gospels, but I felt this one was the least informative when it came details about Jesus and his life.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 42 -- Nemesis: Book One of Indigo

by Louise Cooper

Started: Dec. 21
Finished: Dec. 29

Notes: Here's another fantasy author with whom I was not familiar, so I look forward to expanding my reading experience. I was drawn to this one in a used book store because the typography and artwork on the cover reminded me somewhat of the Elric novels of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Mini review: Unfortunately, this one didn't do much for me. A princess delves into a mystery in her father's kingdom, the results of which opens a door for vast evil to enter the world. What follows is tragic, with the princess ultimately facing a quest to vanquish the evil. This isn't a bad plot, and the writing itself is fair, but the details I found often dull and ultimately unfulfilling. This isn't a novel of action, which I don't have a problem with, but I didn't find the protagonist overly compelling and I felt much of her reasoning to be flawed. One big hang up I had with this novel was the use of illusions by the main antagonist. Some of the illusions were actually a threat, or could have been, but much of the illusions were only meant to terrorize the protagonist, which personally I find silly and cheap; in my opinion, if a protagonist knows (or at least strongly suspects) that an illusion is an illusion, then I wouldn't think they should be strongly affected by the illusion. But maybe that's just me.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Beer of the Week: Foothills Carolina Blonde

Beer score: 7.8

Company: Foothills Brewing
ABV: 4.3
IBU: 15

It's been far too long, weeks, since I've had any really good beer, so I was pleased to try this one. Again. Because I first had it on tap a couple of months ago at the North Carolina Renaissance Festival.

This one poured a light golden color with a touch of haze while giving off scents of wheaty bread and maybe a little orange or some other kind of citrus fruit.

There was a nice foamy head, but not too much, and the texture in the mouth was smooth but crisp.

The taste continues that light mixture of wheat with orange, and I enjoyed it first on a hot day.

I could see this one becoming a regular drinking beer, it's that good, and it's light enough without being too light ... if that makes sense ... meaning it has enough weightiness to it to fill you up but not make you feel bloated ... again, if that makes sense.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 41 -- A Dance of Cloaks

by David Dalglish

Started: Dec. 15
Finished: Dec. 21

Notes: I've been meaning to read more of Dalglish's work, so why not try what is possibly his most popular novel?

Review: I can see why this novel helped spur Dalglish's writing career. The action here is near constant, and when there's not direct action there is plenty of intrigue and skullduggery. This was a fun novel to read, but I do have a few quibbles. For one thing, there are a lot of characters to keep track of, and while I don't normally have a problem with that, here I felt there was not enough space spent with each character to differentiate them from one another, with one or two exceptions. Too many of the characters here seem like one another, so that didn't make it easy to separate them when a chapter or three had gone by without a particular character or characters making an appearance. But if you enjoy action-oriented fiction, this is a novel for you. If you shy away from lots of killing and blood and gore, this one probably is not for you, though I wouldn't call this the darkest novel I've ever read.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Beer of the Week: Keystone

Beer score: 1.8

Company: Coors
ABV: 4.4

Sometimes this beer is labeled "Keystone Premium," but I figure "premium" must be a word in beer language that means "cheap and tasteless" since so many bad beers have the word either on the label or in some logo or jingle. This one is no different.

For what it's worth, this beer is fairly smooth but with a sour flavor. It's wet and easy on the throat, probably decent on a hot day when you're out working in the yard. Vaguely reminiscent of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

I wouldn't go out of my way to drink one, and I'm not even sure I'd drink one if it was given to me free, not unless my mouth was dry and absolutely nothing else was available.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 40 -- Enchanted Pilgrimage

by Clifford D. Simak

Started: Dec. 12
Finished: Dec. 15

Notes: I traveled for a week to Myrtle Beach recently and I had taken a book with me to read while there. As things turned out, I finished that book and needed something else to read, so I dropped in the Back Again Book Shop, a charming little place, and picked up a handful of books, some new, some used. I picked up this particular fantasy novel because of the author, someone with whom I am unfamiliar, so I look forward to trying out a writer new to me.

Mini review: A young scholar in a fantasy world makes a discovery in a university library, the discovery sending him off on a quest with a gnome, a goblin, and many more friends. This was a rather quaint book, reminding me some of the fantasy writings of C.S. Lewis though this novel was not quite so innocent as the writings of Lewis. The writing here was fair, though not great, yet the characters were interesting despite there not being much depth to them. The plot is a straight-forward quest, but the ultimate goal is not always set in stone. Would I read more from this author? I believe I would, so I'll have to keep an eye out for more of his works.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 39 -- On a Pale Horse

by Piers Anthony

Started: Dec. 8
Finished: Dec. 12

Notes: Just last year I read my first Piers Anthony novel, and I didn't care much for it. But that had been a book in the Xanth series and was full of puns, and I'm not much of a pun guy. So, I thought I'd give this author another try but with a different series.

Mini review: A young man tries to commit suicide but in the process accidentally kills the Incarnation of Death, and that means the young man has to take Death's place and job, traveling around the world and retrieving souls as they die. Meanwhile, the other Incarnations (Time, War, Nature, etc.) are working behind the scenes to thwart the plans of Satan himself. I have to say, I enjoyed this one more than I did the one Xanth novel I read, so I wouldn't be opposed to returning to this series of books at some point in the future. The writing is pretty solid, though it is borderline silly, not unlike a number of fantasy novels from the 1980s, reminding me somewhat of the works of Robert Aspirin and even some of Heinlein's later works.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Beer of the Week: Coors Banquet

Beer score: 2.2

Company: Coors
ABV: 5.0
IBU: 15

Good beer isn't always available, even at the holiday season, maybe especially during the holiday season when some relative you haven't seen in a year hands you a bottle of something you'd normally not drink but it's all that's available. This is such a beer.

When I was growing up, this beer was just called Coors, but lately I guess the company is trying to be a little fancy or trying to differentiate between the other beers it makes nowadays, so now they call this beer Coors Banquet. Whatever that means.

Anyway, this beer is so flavorless that it would score higher if it tasted bad. Tap water tastes about the same. But if you're in the mood for some cheap beer, there are worse options available.

It pours a pale, straw color while giving off little smell, maybe a touch of sweetness.

It is fairly light and wet, with just the barest hint of a beer flavor.

Friday, December 08, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 38 -- Swords of the Horseclans

by Robert Adams

Started: Dec. 4
Finished: Dec. 8

Notes: Having just finished the first novel in this series, I thought I'd plunge into the second.

Mini review: This book was quite a bit different than the first one, which was a nice surprise as in my experience series novels tend to have the same plots over and over again. While the first book in this series was mostly Sword & Sorcery with bits of warfare, this second book was almost entirely fantasy warfare. In fact, most of the book is about High Lord Milo either fighting battles, having his officers fight battles, or political intrigue which either destroyed enemies or made friends out of enemies. I didn't care for this book as much as the first one, mostly because there seemed long passages of history and exposition, but it was still nice to see familiar names and to read of events following that first novel. Will I continued this series? Not now, no, mainly because I have no other books in the series, but I might well return if I run across more of these books.

Monday, December 04, 2023

Books read in 2023: No. 37 -- The Coming of the Horseclans

by Robert Adams

Started: Nov. 29
Finished: Dec. 4

Notes: I've had my eye on this series for decades now, and a while back when I ran across a couple of the books, I decided it was time to give them a try.

Mini review: An immortal warrior returns after hundreds of years to the prairie clans he founded and sets out with them on a quest to find a prophesied home. One of the not uncommon criticisms of Sword & Sorcery literature is that it seeks to hide masculine bravado behind a shield of righteous cruelty, an opinion with which I rarely agree, but here? In my experience, only the Gor novels go so far (though the Gor novels are generally more interested in sexual matters whereas here the focus is more to do with brutality), but in this case I believe even the Gor books have been surpassed when it comes to ruthless violence. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy this novel to a certain degree, but I did find it rather careless in treating with righteous vengeance and the like. The writing here is not bad, though not exceptionally good. The world building is fair and would have been considered somewhat unique at the time of publishing of this book in the mid-1970s, though today is nothing exceptional. The characters, however, are quite strong for the most part, though I felt more time could have been spent on exploring these characters. In fairness, this is a short novel, so there's not really the space to expand upon the world and characters further, so I'm glad I've another book in this series. Also found here are the common S&S themes of barbarism vs. civilization with barbarism being considered morally superior, which I personally don't necessarily agree with, not because I feel one is more morally superior than the other but that I think of the two more as historical aspects that wax and wane with each having good or bad aspects to them.

Beer of the Week Blast from the Past: Young's Dirty Dick's Ale

Beer score: 6.8

Once upon a time the Young's pub of Bishopsgate, London, England, brewed this fine beverage, but they were eventually bought out by another brewery. Fortunately a number of the Young's beers are still in production, but this isn't one of them. Which is too bad.

This bitter ale had a very traditional English ale smell and an extremely strong brown ale taste. The bitterness laid on the back of the tongue after you'd swallowed it. Fairly smooth going down. Had a bit of a nutty smell, but very little of that in the taste.