2016 Reads

I finished just over 30 titles in the last year. Looking at the ratings I gave on Goodreads, a little over half were 4 stars while the rest were 2 or 3 stars and no 5 stars this year. I am either a grumpy old man now or am picking the wrong books to read considering I gave several 5 star ratings in 2015 and 2014. This is everything I read in the last 12 months:

  • Cotton Malone – Steve Berry
    • The Templar Legacy
  • I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
  • Hello, Startup – Yevgeniy Brikman
  • Mistborn: Wax and Wayne – Brandon Sanderson
    • The Alloy of Law
    • Shadows of Self
    • The Bands of Mourning
  • Mitch Rapp – Vince Flynn
    • Act of Treason
    • Protect and Defend
  • His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
    • The Golden Compass
  • Amos Decker – David Baldacci
    • Memory Man
    • The Last Mile
  • John Puller – David Baldacci
    • The Forgotten
    • The Escape
    • No Man’s Land
  • Revival – Stephen King
  • Redshirts – John Scalzi
  • Call for the Dead – John le Carre
  • Eon – Greg Bear
  • Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne – Brian Staveley
    • The Emperor’s Blades
    • The Providence of Fire
    • The Last Mortal Bond
  • Bill Hodges – Stephen King
    • Mr. Mercedes
    • Finders Keepers
    • End of Watch
  • NOS4A2 – Joe Hill
  • Harry Bosch – Michael Connelly
    • Blue on Black
    • The Wrong Side of Goodbye
  • Jack Reacher – Lee Child
    • Night School
  • Culture – Iain M. Banks
    • Consider Phlebas
  • From a Buick 8 – Stephen King
  • Rainbows End – Vernor Vinge

I won’t go into detail on everything I read but I will highlight a few titles.

Mistborn: Wax and Wayne – Brandon Sanderson

Without a doubt, Sanderson is a great writer. I like his unusual magic systems. They tend to be reasonably sound as far as magic systems go. The Wax and Wayne books are a fun jaunt back into the Mistborn world. I’m looking forward to the third Mistborn trilogy in the coming years. If you’re a Mistborn fan, you will likely enjoy this. If you haven’t read any Sanderson, pick up Elantris and the first Mistborn trilogy. Those are great stories. Jim’s score: B.

Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne – Brian Staveley

This series started out great and I was really looking forward to reading each successive book but by the end of the trilogy, I just wanted it to be over. Upon reflection, I was hoping this would be a wonderful fantasy distraction until GRRM released the next Game of Thrones volume or Rothfuss gave us the final installment of the Kingkiller Chronicle. Alas, I continue to pine for awesome fantasy. Jim’s score: C.

Bill Hodges – Stephen King

With the exception of the Dark Tower, King hasn’t shown a penchant for writing a series of books. Between 2014 and 2016, he broke with that tradition and released a series of books known as the Bill Hodges trilogy. It is a bit more mainstream but still has many of the trappings of classic King horror about the books. I enjoyed the read and feel they are one of the better latter day King publications (along with 11-22-63). Jim’s score: A-.

Gaming in Oregon, Part 2

We transitioned from epic gaming to shorter games on Thursday with the remaining guests arriving throughout the day.

Thursday

20150226-Gaming-052.jpgIn the morning, I taught Clash of Cultures to David and KC. I played earlier in the week with Chris and Jeff providing a helpful refresh before I needed to explain it to a couple of new players. As with earlier plays, Clash is a nicely streamlined civ game with little down time. Our play lasted 5 hours, including setup and explanation. Experienced players should finish in under 3 hours. Virgin Queen finished early so Chris, David and I were able to play Maria much earlier than expected. Maria is a direct descendent of Friedrich, a game I own but have not yet played. It uses the same point to point style map and cards to resolve battles. Maria was over relatively quickly (little over a quarter of the potential number of turns) due to our (namely, mine) novice mistakes. That said, Maria is a great experience. The mechanics combine to create a wonderfully themed and playable war game about the War of Austrian Succession. As our closer, we played the great (and much lighter than anything else so far this week!) Ra with 3 players. Puerto Rico, Power Grid, 18AL and Texas Hold’em were going on throughout the evening.

Friday

20150227-Gaming-031.jpgFriday began with a play of Puerto Rico with Alex, Katie, Greg and myself. Others played Volldampf and Tigris & Euphrates. In the middle of the day, a game of Wallenstein broke out. Wally continues to be a favorite. It’s a great blend of several game styles and the cube tower just rocks for resolving combat! After dinner, we started playing Formula De with 10 players on the Belgium map. Eight of the ten cars finished. Formula De is very fun with the right group of gamers and this was one of those groups. Everyone played quickly and kept the game moving which is a key to a successful play of Formula De. I closed out the night in a game of Tichu with David, Matt and Bryann. After a rough start, Matt and I pulled out a win over David and Bryann.

Saturday

20150228-Gaming-039.jpgFirst up was a 4 player Settlers of Catan with the Cities and Knights expansion. This is my favorite version of Catan although I like it best with 3 players. I stopped playing 5 and 6 player Catan several years ago because it ends up being longer than is desirable for what it is. Next up was Alan Moon’s Union Pacific. Alan has many great designs and Union Pacific ranks among them. Since you don’t quite know when the scoring rounds will be or when the game will end, Union Pacific packs an amazing level of tension in a game with the simplicity of Ticket to Ride. KC and Rita introduced David and me to the quick, cute game of Pool Position. Pool Position is a blind bidding game where you receive the points of the next lowest bidder to spend on where you place your towel at the pool. Since the lowest bidder wraps around and receives the points of the highest bidder, it becomes a cat and mouse game of timing when to play your lowest bid card to catch a high bidder’s points. It’s quick, light and fun. You can easily play this multiple times in under an hour.

KC and I learned MarraCash from David. We rushed all the shoppers into the mall and ended the game in about 30 minutes rather than the stated 60 minutes on the box. We might’ve been doing it wrong. 😀 We moved on to Knizia’s Stephensons Rocket before spending the evening in a Magic booster draft tournament using Conspiracy boosters for multiplayer matches.