Tuesday 31 October 2017

Vallista - Steven Brust - Vlad Taltos Book 15

Vlad Taltos Book 15
Steven Brust
ISBN 9780765324450


I have been reading the Vlad Taltos books by Steven Brust since they first started appearing. I started keeping track of what I read in the fall of 1995, since that time I have read or reread a book by Brust 36 times. With each new work I appreciate the series, the author and especially Vlad more. Whenever a Vlad Taltos book appears it is like a visit with an old friend. In Fact Brust is one of the few authors I read 30 plus years ago in high school that I still read now. That speaks to his staying power as a storyteller, and the charm and wit of Vlad. I gave up on Xanth by Piers Anthony by the 6th book and Wild Cards by George R.R. Martin by the 10th book. The only series I started reading in the mid 80’s that I finished was The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison and it ended a while ago. 

But this book is a different kettle of longfish all together. Our cast has been widowed down to basically Vlad, his familiars Loiosh and Rocza, and Devera. And every time Devera enters the picture things get interesting. This time she appears and asks Vlad to follow her, once they enter what appears to be an empty manor she disappears asking Vlad to help her. From there it sort of becomes a locked room mystery. Vlad needs to figure out the manor, and find a way to free himself and Devera. It this is no ordinary manor house, food and food smells appear but the kitchen has never been used. People seem to come and go but now they do it. Vlad narrows it down to some clues, necromancy, and just old fashioned problem solving. And as we know from the 15 previous books Vlad is an excellent problem solver, he uses his intuition, research, and occasionally a dagger and depending on his mood which end of the dagger varies. 

During this story Vlad’s thoughts and ruminations go back and forth in time, over different parts of his life and career. We get some interesting insights into him, and especially his relationship with his great weapon. We also see dome new developments in his relationship with Loiosh, as the manor effects them both but in different ways. So between the trips down past memories, a new visit to the Paths of The Dead, and a bit of travel in time there is a lot happening considering Vlad cannot leave the regions of a manor house. 

This book is a lot less action and adventure than some of the Vlad novels, but a series that has reached 15 volumes hopefully they are not all the same formula. We receive a lot of information that we can only assume will be pertinent in future volumes as the series progresses. If this were a TV series this would be a part flash back episode loaded with new information. And a number of tangents that information can lead in the next book.

Another great read from one of my all-time favorite authors. A great novel in an incredible series! Well done Brust, well done.   

Books by Steven Brust:
Vlad Taltos Publishing Order:

Jhereg (1983)
Yendi (1984)
Teckla (1987)
Taltos (1988)
Phoenix (1990)
Athyra (1993)
Orca (1996)
Dragon (1998)
Issola (2001)
Dzur (2006)
Jhegaala (2008)
Iorich (2010)
Tiassa (2011)
Hawk (2014)
Vallista (2017)
Tsalmoth (2023)
Lyorn (2024)

Vlad Taltos: Chronological Order:
Taltos (1988)
Dragon, main chapters (1998)
Yendi (1984)
Tsalmoth (2023)
Dragon, interludes (1998)
Tiassa, section 1 (2011)
Jhereg (1983)
Teckla (1987)
Phoenix (1990)
Jhegaala (2008)
Athyra (1993)
Orca (1996)
Issola (2001)
Dzur (2006)
Tiassa, section 2 (2011)
Iorich (2010)
Tiassa, section 3 (2011)
Hawk (2014)
Vallista (2017)
Lyorn (2024)

The Khaavren Romances:
The Phoenix Guards (1991)
Five Hundred Years After (1994)
The Viscount of Adrilankha, published in three volumes:
The Paths of the Dead (2002)
The Lord of Castle Black (2003)
Sethra Lavode (2004)

Other Books:
Brokedown Palace (1986)
To Reign in Hell (1984)
The Sun, the Moon & the Stars (1987)
Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille (1990)
Agyar (1993)
My Own Kind of Freedom (2008)
Good Guys (2018)

Co Written:
The Gypsy (1992) with Megan Lindholm
Freedom & Necessity (1997) with Emma Bull

Incrementalist (with Skyler White):
The Incrementalists
The Skill of our Hands

Incrementalist Short Stories
Fireworks in the Rain - Steven Brust
Strongest Conjuration - Skyler White

Short Stories:
An Act of Contrition - Liavek (1985)
An Act of Trust - Liavek: The Players of Luck (1986)
A Dream of Passion - in the convention chapbook for Ad Astra (1986)
An Act of Mercy - Liavek: Wizard's Row (1987, with Megan Lindholm)
An Act of Love - Liavek: Spells of Binding (1988, with Gregory Frost and Megan Lindholm)
Csucskári - Excerpt from The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: First Annual Collection (1988)
A Hot Night at Cheeky's - Liavek: Festival Week (1990)
Looking Forward: Excerpt from Athyra in Amazing Stories, March (1993)
Attention Shoppers - Xanadu (1993)
Abduction from the Harem - in Timewalker Issue 14 (October 1996)
Drift - Space Opera (1996)
Valóság and Élet - in Sandman: Book of Dreams (1996)
Calling Pittsburgh - in Lord of the Fantastic: Stories in Honor of Roger Zelazny (1998)
When the Bow Breaks - The Essential Bordertown (1998)
The Man From Shemhaza - in Thieves' World: Enemies of Fortune (2004), reprinted in Year's Best Fantasy 5 (2005)
Klava with Honey - Eeriecon Convention Chapbook #4 (2005)
Chapter One - in Eeriecon Convention Chapbook #6 (2007)
The Desecrator - on tor.com (2011)
Fireworks in the Rain - on tor.com (2013)

Monday 30 October 2017

The Compass Solution - Tim Cole - A Guide to Winning Your Career

The Compass Solution
A Guide to Winning Your Career
Tim Cole
The Compass Alliance
ISBN 9780999057100

I have been reading business books for over 30 years now. Back when I was in high school and did an in house leadership development course at MacDonald's to borrowing my dad's copy of The One Minute Manager just after it had come out. There are some authors I have enjoyed like Spencer Johnson, Robin Sharma and John Maxwell to some I have loved Patrick Lencioni and Matthew Kelly. To be honest with only this one book to sample Cole falls in the middle. It will be interesting to see what other offerings Cole comes out with over the next few years. Now don't get me wrong. This is a very good book and I can easily recommend it. In fact I sent personal recommendations to about a dozen people while reading it or shortly after finishing reading it.  This book was a good read, and for me a timely read. I am just a year into a new job after being at a company for 7 years that to be honest I never thought I would leave.

The book follows a pretty simple formula. Each section of the book begins with a quote and then it has a brief introduction. Then each chapter begins with a quote, from a wide range of sources, then the main teaching point or points of the chapter. Then each chapters ends with a boxed section called Straight Talk. For example the chapter 'Present And Accounted For' begins with this quote:

"If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present." ~Laozi
And the Straight Talk at the end of that chapter is:
"The ability to live purposefully-to focus on the present-is a challenge. Our natural tendency is often to dwell on past successes (or failures) or fixate on the uncertainty of the future. But the only thing we can fully influence is this moment. Allowing the shadows of the past or the imaginings of the future to compromise the precious present is a malady that impacts all of us from time to time.
Sometimes the best course of action is remarkably simple.
Fly away."
The sections in this book are:

  • Brand You
  • Owning vs Renting
  • A Different Drummer
  • Burnout & Balance-Work Better, Not Harder
  • Burnout & Balance-Part 2: Going Pro
  • Free Agency
  • Walking Away
  • We're All One Big, Happy Family...
  • Remember Your Waiters and Waitresses
  • The Dance of the Toadies
  • EMUs
  • The Bad Boss
  • Tornado Warning
  • The Glass Jaw Syndrome
  • Enemy Mine
  • The Game
  • Doppler Down
  • A Cure for Corporate ADD
  • The Core Analytics
  • Every Time You Sit Down
  • The Meeting Maze
  • Thank You, MAM
  • Career Infarcts
  • The Tale of the Two Charlies
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
  • Adversity and Resilience
  • It Ain't Fair But It's There
  • Pivotal Moments
  • Another Brick in the Wall
  • Mea Culpa
  • Boris
  • Present and Accounted For

  • Lead, Follow, or Get the Hell Out of the Way
  • The Power to Inspire
  • Put Me in Coach
  • Fifth Floor Please
  • Why Being Efficient Isn't Enough
  • The Meeting Room Test
  • R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
  • The Five
  • Star Light, Star Bright
  • Why, Tell Me Why
  • Everyone Is In Sales
  • The Importance of Questions
  • The Power of Story
  • The Power of Story Part Two
  • The Magic of Audience Engagement
  • Gamblers, Cops, and Con Men
  • I Think I Got Something to Say
  • The Principle of Higher Ground
  • Looking Beyond
  • Nifty Shades of Gray
  • Investment Advice
  • After Action Reviews
  • No One Makes It On Their Own

Part of the description for this book is:
"Most people will spend-at minimum-100,000 hours building a career. This represents the greatest financial investment of their life. Unfortunately, a great many consider that investment with the same degree of critical thinking as they might the purchase of a lottery ticket-effectively gambling away their future. The Compass Solution was written for those who want to win their career, not just endure it. This is the definitive guide to successful career navigation."
And it really does deliver on that. If you are just finishing university and entering the work force this book will be an excellent resource. Read it and put it in your day timer to read it again in a year or two. If you have already had a long career or even multiple careers then this book might give you some greater insight into patterns in your work life, and some guidance to help you navigate the workplace to find yourself where you would rather be.

I know that I will likely circle back and reread this book in 2 or three years. In part as a refresher, in part to make sure I have applied what I have learned. And to be honest wanting to read a book again is one of the highest praises I can give it. Unless you are living off a hugs nest egg or trust fun, this book definitely has some sound advice to offer you. No matter what stage you are at in your working life. So give it a true the 2 or 3 hours it takes to read this book is a drop in the hat of the 100,000 you will spend working, why not learn now and maximize those hours you have remaining?

Sunday 29 October 2017

The Mystery of the Sapphire Bracelet - Manuel Alfonseca - The Sleuths of the Spanish Transition Book 3

The Mystery of the Sapphire Bracelet
The Sleuths of the Spanish Transition Book 3
Manuel Alfonseca


This past spring Manuel Alfonseca's books were recommended to me. Since then I have read four of his works and been impressed by them all. I have now read three books in the series The Sleuths of the Spanish Transition, and am greatly enjoying the series. Many years ago I encountered the writings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jose Saramago and I find that reading Alfonseca reminds me of their works. The big advantage with the works of Alfonseca is that for those I have read he has done the translations himself. So the chance of something having been lost in translation is far less likely. 

The first two mysteries focus more on both Vicki and Gonzalo. In the first book Quetzalcoatl's Zahir, the two meet and have a budding relationship over a mysterious letter found in a library book and what it hits at. The second book, The Mystery of the Haunted House, has Vicki as a main character but Gonzalo is close by and helping to solve the case. In that volume we are also introduced to Inspector Gutierrez. This third volume is very different in that Gonzalo does not play a part. This is really a new mystery focusing around an investigation by Inspector Gutierrez and Vicki playing the role of his assistant. For the book begins with Gonzalo leaving on a train for school work. And while at the station seeing him off Vicki runs into the Inspector. 

In many ways this story is the unravelling of a series of lies, half trusts and what appears to be a locked room mystery. The inspector states to Vicki: "I just got back from a routine job that got me out of Seville. They've called me back urgently to deal with another case. It doesn't seem very complicated, but as you are interested in these things... Do you want to come with me and witness my investigation? You could learn a lot. As your boyfriend is on a journey, and classes are over for this week..." But it is an understatement and the beginning of our adventure.

Like the other books in the series there are a number of references to literature, a few pop culture and some classical science fiction. The book was great fun to read and I could hardly put it down. It is odd seeing the interactions between a family, their servants, a family friend and the police. It begins when a bracelet appears missing and so is one of the family's maids. But soon it is discovered to be a murder and none of the stories are really lining up with the facts. It becomes quite the tangled web to unravel for the Inspector and Vicki to get to the truth. 

As mentioned this book is available in English and is translated by the author himself. And now all four books in the series are available in English. When I began reading the first book, it was the only one at the time available in English. I have loved the first three books in this series. And I have the fourth but have held off reading it until I could write the review for this one. My only wish at this point is that the series will be extended. They are such good clean fun mysteries to read! 

I stand by my statement that if you are a fan of Coelho, Marquez or Saramago you owe it to yourself to give this author a try! And if you are not fans of those three buy love a great adventure or mystery novel, give this series a go, they are great reads and I am sure you will not be disappointed! I must state clearly that I highly recommend this book, and the whole series.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Manuel Alfonseca in English:
Jacob's Ladder
The Ruby of the Ganges
The Last Dinosaur
Ennia in Faerie
The Heirloom of King Scorpion
Beyond the Black Hole
The Water of Life

The Sleuths of the Spanish Transition Series:
Quetzalcoatl's Zahir

The Mystery of the Haunted House
The Mystery of the Sapphire Bracelet
The Mystery of the Honeymoon
The Mystery of the Egyptian Vulture Country House

Chronicles of the Magic Jigsaw Puzzle Series:
The Journey of Tivo the Dauntless
The Mystery of the Black Lake
The Silver Swan
The Secret of the Ice Field
The Lost Continent

The Chronicles of the Aeolian Family Series:

Human Cultures & Evolution
World Population: Past, Present, & Future
The Fifth Level of Evolution

Saturday 28 October 2017

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2017

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

I went to evening mass tonight. I am glad that I did, we had no children there to altar serve. So another gentlemen and myself served mass. I was just telling someone today that i do not like being up front at mass. But I server because it is needed. I also still need to ask for prayers. I am coming up on 8 weeks with a cough and though doing much better than i was I am still not 100%, also please be praying for my wife who is now on week three. 

Related Posts:
The Colors of the Church Year
The Privilege of Altar Serving
Serving God, Altar Serving and Learning to Listen
Saturday 18th Week or Ordinary Time
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017
Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2017


Note: Link to all posts about St. Agnes Parish.

Thursday 26 October 2017

Random Photos of Me

Random Photos of Me

 Baptism 1970
 1976 Kingston Canadian's Hockey Game
 1976 Beaver's
 Grade 1
 Grade 3
 Grade 4
 Grade 5
 Grade 7
Confirmation Grade 8 
 Grade 9
 Grade 11
Grade 13 - OAC 
 20th Birthday
 21st Birthday
Graduation triOS College 

Testing Video Conference System Detroit to Kitchener

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Flags of My Youth

These are the Flags of My Youth!

Scouts Canada
Queen's University 

My son and I recently had a conversation about heritage. We discussed blood relatives, and relatives by choice. People who are as close as family. We talked about our heritage, and I was showing him some of the flags. These are the flags that shaped me, from my home town, to my heritage both physical and spiritual. 

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Quote of the Day Matthew Kelly Perfectly Yourself

Quote of the Day Matthew Kelly Perfectly Yourself

I am currently reading this book and absolutely love it. This section from the first chapter really hit me today. I stopped and reread it three times.

"From time to time my best friends will get this look on their faces, and I know exactly what I am about to hear: "Matthew, get honest with yourself!" I love that. They don't say it that often, so when they do it means something.
I think we all need moments of honesty from time to time. We need them as individuals, as couples, as families, and as nations. In the area of personal development, we are in desperate need of a moment of truth. We need to get honest with ourselves.

The truth is this: Diets don't fail. We fail at diets. Savings plans don't fail. We fail at savings plans. Exercise routines don't fail. We fail at exercise routines. Relationships don't fail. We fail at relationships.

This may seem harsh, but until we face this difficult truth, we will never seriously ask the really important questions that loom in the back of our minds: Why do I fail every time I go on a diet? Why can't I stick to my budget and savings plan? Why can't I be consistent about working out? Why am I constantly in and out of relationships? And so on."

Perfectly Yourself: 
Discovering God's Dream For You
New and Revised Edition
Matthew Kelly
Wellspring Publishing
Beacon Publishing for
Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 9781635820126
eISBN 9781635820133
ASIN B0746S76L1

Books by Matthew Kelly:
I Know Jesus
The Long View
Decision Point: The Workbook
Decision Point: The Leader Guide
The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic
The One Thing
Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction
Why Am I Here?
Perfectly Yourself: 9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness
Perfectly Yourself Discovering God's Dream For You
Building Better Families: A Practical Guide to Raising Amazing Children
The Dream Manager
The Seven Levels of Intimacy: The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved
The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose
Building Better Families - 5 Practical Ways to Build Family Spirituality
The Book of Courage
The Shepherd: A Modern Parable about Our Search for Happiness
Mustard Is Persecution, Matthew Kelly Foundation
A Call to Joy - Living in the Presence of God
The Rhythm of Life: An Antidote For Our Busy Age
Words from God
Resisting Happiness
The Narrow Path
Our Father
The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity
Why I Love Being Catholic
Good Night, Jesus
In a world where you can be anything ...

Beautiful ... Series:

Rediscover Books by Matthew Kelly:
Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion & Purpose
Rediscover Advent
Rediscover Lent
Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation
Rediscover the Rosary: The Modern Power of an Ancient Prayer
Rediscover the Saints

Audio by Matthew Kelly from Lighthouse Media:
Becoming The Best Version Of Yourself
The Best Way To Live
Don't Just Try, Train
Faith At Work & The Holy Moment
The Four Signs Of A Dynamic Catholic - Excerpt
The Jesus Question
My Spiritual Journey
Our Lives Change When Our Habits Change
Raising Amazing Children
The Seven Levels Of Intimacy
The Seven Pillars Of Catholic Spirituality

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Monday 23 October 2017

Happy 2100th Post

Happy 2100th Post

When I began writing book reviews on advance copies for publishers 12 years ago, I never expected something like this. With my dual form of dyslexia I never expected to be published. I have published over 300 reviews and articles across 7 different publications. And I am not looking back. I look forward to the next 2100 posts and more beyond. 

Sunday 22 October 2017

Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2017

Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2017

Today is the 29th Sunday of Ordinary time. It was also my youngest child’s first communion enrollment. The journey is officially under way. She is terribly excited about her first reconciliation, her first communion, and also already asking about becoming an altar server once she has completed her communion. Normally students need to wait a year after their first communion in our parish. But Father makes exceptions and often asks younger siblings of older children who are already serving.

I must be honest and say I am nervous every time I serve on the altar. But I pray and dedicate my time, especially when I am serving with my children. And I also admit I am looking forward to the four of us serving mass together at some point in the future.

The Gospel Acclimation today way:
Phil 2:15d, 16a
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Shine like lights in the world
as you hold on to the word of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

The Responsorial Psalm was:
Give the Lord glory and Honor.

I believe both of those speak to serving and following God. Last weekend our church had a celebration, and it was a very busy weekend. It was the first time every when my son who is 10 asked to go to confession that he was put off. I understood it was the last of 4 services, was late in the evening and had been a busy weekend and the priest was sick. But I had to spend the whole ride home talking to him and calming his disappointment. I think I helped him understand. Today he asked father as soon as he saw him if he could do confession. I love that my oldest two who are 11 and 10 both ask to go to confessions, and when one goes the other often follows even if they had not asked.

I believe the two greatest things the Roman Catholic Church has going for it is communion and confession. Both feed, nourish and heal. And I am so glad to see that sentiment developing in my children’s life. And maybe by this time next year I will be posting a picture of the four of us serving together.

Related Posts:
The Colors of the Church Year
The Privilege of Altar Serving
Serving God, Altar Serving and Learning to Listen
Saturday 18th Week or Ordinary Time
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017
Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2017


Note: Link to all posts about St. Agnes Parish.

Saturday 21 October 2017

It has been a rough week and a very rough day.

It has been a rough week and a very rough day.

I love working in It, because things are new and exciting. Always more to learn. But this day, this week, even the past month has been rough. I have had a cold and cough for 5 week's now. I have had a few things outside my control go sideways at work and take a lot longer than expected. It just seems like this is one of those phases in life where everything is harder than it should be.

That being said prayer and faith are my strength and will get me through this.