Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

After listening to the 2 available Grimnoir Chronicles books I decided to give the Monster Hunter International books a try. In many ways they are very similar to each other, they both have lots of action, monsters, hardboiled fighting men, and a lot of action.

But unlike the Grimnoir Chronicles, the Monster Hunter books have very little magic and the setting is more in line with our mundane reality. It definitely gives the books a different feel. But even so, they are very similar.

Oliver Wyman does a good job narrating the book, he falters on the accents every now and then but he really nails some of the characters and I now can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job.

The reviews for this book are through the roof on both Audible and Amazon for a good reason, it is a really good monster action book. Once I started listening to it, I did not want to stop.

From the publisher:

Five days after Owen Zastava Pitt pushed his insufferable boss out of a 14th story window, he woke up in the hospital with a scarred face, an unbelievable memory, and a job offer.

It turns out that monsters are real. All the things from myth, legend, and B-movies are out there, waiting in the shadows. Officially secret, some of them are evil, and some are just hungry. On the other side are the people who kill monsters for a living. Monster Hunter International is the premier eradication company in the business. And now Owen is their newest recruit.

It’s actually a pretty sweet gig, except for one little problem. An ancient entity known as the Cursed One has returned to settle a centuries-old vendetta. Should the Cursed One succeed, it means the end of the world, and MHI is the only thing standing in his way.

With the clock ticking towards Armageddon, Owen finds himself trapped between legions of undead minions, belligerent federal agents, a cryptic ghost who has taken up residence inside his head, and the cursed family of the woman he loves. Business is good…. Welcome to Monster Hunter International.

©2009 Larry Correia (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

I rate this book a 9 out of 10 and recommend it highly for lovers of pulp, monster, and modern fantasy.

Spellbound: Book II of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

This is the follow-up to Hard Magic and shows that Larry Correia is able to keep the action steaming along.

Faye has really taken off as a character and has become my favorite of the bunch. Bronson Pinchot does a great job of making her come to life.

If you read the first book I highly recommend you jump into this one and if you have not read Hard Magic, what are you waiting for, get to it already.

From the publisher:

Dark fantasy goes hardboiled in Book II of the hard-hitting Grimnoir Chronicles by the New York Times best-selling creator of Monster Hunter International. The Grimnoir Society’s mission is to protect people with magic, and they’ve done so successfully and in secret since the mysterious arrival of the Power in the 1850s, but when a magical assassin makes an attempt on the life of President Franklin Roosevelt, the crime is pinned on the Grimnoir. The knights must become fugitives while they attempt to discover who framed them. Things go from bad to worse when Jake Sullivan, former P.I. and knight of the Grimnoir, receives a telephone call from a dead man—a man he helped kill. Turns out the Power jumped universes because it was fleeing from a predator that eats magic and leaves destroyed worlds in its wake. That predator has just landed on Earth.

©2012 Larry Correia (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

I rate this book a 9 out of 10, even better than Hard Magic with even more insight into the characters and a lot of action.

Mental Models by Indi Young

I read this book in a web browser, on an iPhone and on an iPad using Safari Books Online website and app.

According to this book "Mental models are simply affinity diagrams of behaviors made from ethnographic data gathered from audience representatives." This book does a great job describing how to create a detailed mental model.

As a front-end developer with a deep interest in usability I have talked a lot about customer mental models, but my understanding of what the term meant was very limited. Now as a UX designer it is more important for me to have a more in-depth understanding, including how to discover, document, and share what our customer’s mental models are for our industry.

I learned a lot of that from this book and hope to participate in a mental model exercise at some point in the future, but I do not necessarily want it to be a focus of my career. I like the idea of conducting the interviews to develop the model, but the analysis portion holds no interest for me.

Mental Models did cement my belief that establishing a clear mental model of your customer’s tasks can lead to better design, features, functionality, and focus to your products.

From the Mental Models book website:

There is no single methodology for creating the perfect product—but you can increase your odds. One of the best ways is to understand users’ reasons for doing things. Mental Models gives you the tools to help you grasp, and design for, those reasons. Adaptive Path co-founder Indi Young has written a roll-up-your-sleeves book for designers, managers, and anyone else interested in making design strategic, and successful.

"Indi Young’s mental models are the perfect way for your team to integrate your user’s perspective into your design. Indi has written a comprehensive guide for anyone who wants to make use of this power design technique. I’ll be giving this book out to all of our important clients and insisting they make it part of their process."
-Jared Spool, CEO & Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to any UX designer who needs to develop a mental model to inform the creation of a website or app.

A Lot Going On

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity.

Working my way backwards:

Hard Magic: Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

I got this book from audible after someone at DragonCon recommended it to me; I think. Actually it may have been on sale and recommended to me by Audible. I am not sure. Either way it was a good recommendation.

This is the first book in a new series of books by Larry Correia.

Narrated wonderfully by Bronson Pinchot, yes Balki Bartokomous from Perfect Strangers, narrates this book bringing the characters to life, it is a wonderful performance.

I am not usually into books about magic, when I was a kid there were a couple that I really enjoyed because of their humor, but as a rule I did not get into many magic or fantasy books. But this book is very different from anything I had read before with the exception of Mike Resnick’s "Stalking the Unicorn."

The publisher’s summary confuses me, I think it is written by someone who did not read the book, Jake is not a private eye, in fact he is a convict that is blackmailed by J. Edgar Hoover to hunt down people who are using magic in ways that the FBI does not like. Anyway…

What makes this book great for me is that even though magic is the main focus of the book it is written more in the fashion of a science fiction book than a fantasy one. It also includes many elements of a pulp-fiction mystery from the 50’s. Doesn’t that sound great?

Adding to that there is a delicate balance struck between explaining how the magic works, day-to-day living, and personal relationships that give the reader deep insight into the characters that many stories completely miss. Even though Jake Sullivan may be the "hero" of the story the other character all get moments to shine, I believe some reader will pick characters other than Jake to be their "hero."

Fighting is a regular feature of this book, there are long sections of the story that are detailing the battles between the characters. He does a good job with these but every now and then they do get a little tedious, but overall I do not think they hurt the story more than they add a feeling of action.

From the publisher:

Jake Sullivan is a licensed private eye with a seriously hardboiled attitude. He also possesses raw magical talent and the ability to make objects in his vicinity light as a feather or as heavy as depleted uranium, all with a magical thought. It’s no wonder the G-men turn to Jake when they need someone to go after a suspected killer who has been knocking off banks in a magic-enhanced crime spree.

Problems arise when Jake discovers the bad girl behind the robberies is an old friend, and he happens to know her magic is just as powerful as his. And the Feds have plunged Jake into a secret battle between powerful cartels of magic-users – a cartel whose ruthless leaders have decided that Jake is far too dangerous to live.

©2011 Larry Correia (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who likes pulp-fiction and action/adventure books.