Friday, December 7, 2018

Review: Ella Dethroned

Ella Dethroned Ella Dethroned by Brandon Barr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a freebie over at AudFans. It made for a decent two-hour listen, introducing the Song of the Worlds. I'll still want to read the main series, but this was well written if a little romancey in parts. It was meant to be a preview to the audiobook versions of the main books coming out soon. The reader isn't bad, but I'll probably go to the ebook versions that I've already purchased.

I'd review the actual AudFans edition, but the last time I did that it got deleted.

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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Review: Foundryside

Foundryside Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ebook review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

I really have mixed feelings here. This book took me two months to read, but it wasn't the fault of the writing. Initially I had a tough time getting hooked, but then I was definitely all-in for awhile. Personal events kept me from staying on track though, and by the end I was having difficulty focusing on the fine details.

That said, the worldbuilding here is phenomenal. There were some early action scenes where I could vividly picture the events through the author's prose, and it really came to life in those moments.

The last 20% or so I found hard to visualize and focus, but as I mentioned before that may be in part at least to personal distractions keeping me off track. I do think this is an author to watch, as it was my second novel to read from him.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Review: Mistletoe & Magic: A YA Books Central Holiday Anthology

Mistletoe & Magic: A YA Books Central Holiday Anthology Mistletoe & Magic: A YA Books Central Holiday Anthology by Melissa A. Craven
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

So far I've only read the story by Angela N. Blount, titled "Young Saint Nicholas". I picked this up as this author is a friend of mine, and I am a huge fan of her work. Yes, I know I just said she was a friend so there might be some bias, but trust me this lady can write compelling stories. I've read everything she has published (and even one that hasn't ;)) and I'd be a fan even if I hadn't met her on Goodreads.

That said, this particular story is wonderful. It's quite different from other work Blount has published, but it doesn't suffer for that. This is a story of a future otherworld version of Saint Nick. I understand that it is a glimpse into his world and that there is much more to come later. As a taste, this was fantastic. It was enough to enjoy for the moment, yet make certain that I will scoop up any further stories or novels set in this world.

It didn't feel overly "YA"ish, though it would certainly appeal to a young crowd. It didn't feel exclusive to that audience though, which is a good quality of well written YA. A good story is a good story, regardless of genre. Angela N. Blount has hammered home that theory with each work of hers that I've read, and I'd be excited to try anything she puts out there in the future (pun was intended).

For the rest of the book, I will give it a shot. I'm not familiar with any of the other authors, but if this story is indication, it's a quality anthology.

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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Review: The Crown Tower

The Crown Tower The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent still on the re-read. Upon reflection though, I have come to the conclusion that this definitely works better for a reader that has already read the Revelations series. It's good on its own or as an introduction to the overall series, but will mean more to a reader that's already familiar with the main characters.

Oh yes, and the narration by Tim Gerard Reynolds is superb, as expected.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Review: Driving to Geronimo's Grave: and Other Stories

Driving to Geronimo's Grave: and Other Stories Driving to Geronimo's Grave: and Other Stories by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review copy eARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley

Joe R. Lansdale has been on my radar for many years, and always seemed to be an author I’d enjoy. But the shame of it is that until now, I’ve only read one or two short stories of his. This collection was fantastic, and if it’s any indication of a consistent writing style from Lansdale, I’ll certainly be reading more of his work in short order.

“Driving to Geronimo’s Grave” – I had no idea where this story was going as it got started, but wasn’t disappointed. Terri was the best part of this. I really got a feel for the Great Depression setting here.

“In the Mad Mountains” – You know, I don’t think I’ve ever actually read an HP Lovecraft story. But even so, I recognize when something is “Lovecraftian”, and this is certainly it (confirmed by the author’s notes after the story). Besides that, it reminded me of what might have happened if Dan Simmons wrote about the Titanic in the spirit of The Terror, and maybe had some contributions from Stephen King in the vein of “The Langoliers”. And then so much more than all of that. Loved it.

“Wrestling Jesus” – What a fantastic story! I couldn’t see where it was going*, and I was glued to the page from beginning to end. This is a unique take on the “young guy meets old mentor” story and is very well written. *What’s even more amazing is that in the notes, I discovered that I’d actually read this story before, in the Dangerous Women anthology. Looking back at my review, I had flagged it as a favorite.

“Robo Rapid” – and he does science fiction too. This was a great tale of a disturbing post-apocalyptic future.

“The Projectionist” – This was based on an Ed Hopper painting, so I had to look it up online after reading. I would have done so before, but didn’t know that fact until the author notes after the story. Anyway, this fits with “Wrestling Jesus” as a mentor-student bond type tale, though quite different in its execution. (Pun intended)

“Everything Sparkles in Hell” – Great title for the final story! Oh, and it’s a Western. Great way to close out an excellent collection. I really liked this one, with the suspense of the hunting grizzly bear. I was also pleased to see that there are other stories out there about Nat Love, so this is just the beginning.

All in all a great collection which left me wanting more. Lansdale is a great short story writer; most authors have a good one here and there but their collections are pretty uneven. This one is rock solid, with every single story being of equal high intensity and quality. I’m looking forward to reading more of his work. I’ll be grabbing more of the short stories, and I look forward to trying a novel as well.

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Review: Street Freaks

Street Freaks Street Freaks by Terry Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*eARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

I enjoyed this. It was certainly different than any Terry Brooks that I’d read before, and I’ve read a lot of Terry Brooks. Loyal fans will probably like this as his storytelling quality is there, even if we’re looking at a dystopian future instead of epic fantasy. It appeals to all age groups, being friendly in tone to younger readers, but mature enough in content for older ones as well. Because the main hero and majority of the characters are teens, this would work well as being categorized YA, but it’s a good story regardless.

The pacing and plot are pretty good overall, but there are a couple of plot points that didn’t make a lot of sense. The overall story was fine, but some of the hidden motivations with the “adults” in the story weren’t clear. Maybe they weren’t supposed to be, but it made for a distracting feeling as I came to the end. The ending itself felt pretty good, but these odd tidbits hung with me.

Will this be a series? Had to imagine anything from Terry Brooks that isn’t, but the book could stand alone. It could also see expansion, both in continuation of threads left open here and in other stories set in this future “United Territories”. Either way, I’d be interested in seeing what will come out, if anything.

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Monday, September 3, 2018

Review: Kings of the Wyld

Kings of the Wyld Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

That hit the spot. I’ve been looking for this book for years, needing to read something that was just a whole bunch of fun.

Reading this story of a bunch of retired mercenaries getting the band back together for a final tour was a dip into my entertainment history. Back in my Air Force days, I had a group of men and women that gathered once a month for a truly epic Saturday. We’d meet for breakfast and then gather at one of our houses for an all-day session of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. We bought up the 2nd Edition books as they came out and had to try everything.

I’d play those old cassettes on my way to the games (or to breakfast and back if the session was at my house). I remember jamming to Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” as I went to one of these, nearly 30 years ago. I even named a character/villain “Britney Fox” after one of the semi-popular hair bands of the day and jammed their cassette while I plotted her diabolical schemes.

So yes, I smile at the idea of calling up all these old friends, getting a few cases of beer and some pizzas, and dragging the old books out. We’d bring back our own band: Qurx Grimthorn, Anastasious Xerxes, Quinta Ish, Marco the Weak, Corwyn, and Borg the Sly. Plus many (bards) whose names I can’t remember. We’d be rusty. We’d probably be embarrassing to our spouses and children. We’d be clumsy and have a lot of false starts as we try to remember all the rules and try to move with our old bones in ways that were second nature back then.

But in the end, I’m sure we’d have a kickass time.

That’s what this book was. It was much fresher and flowing as a story than that fantasy meeting I just described would be (it wouldn’t). But the feelings of nostalgia are one of the key components that drives this story, along with great characters, cool as hell imaginative twists, and a sense of humor that had me laugh out loud as I was caught off guard more than once.

One question I keep seeing is “Is it Grimdark?” when asked about this book. Most argue that it is not. So I had to think on that, and well, I don’t know what to say. It appeals to readers and authors of Grimdark. Eames has been published in Grimdark Magazine, and I keep seeing authors known for their gritty work endorsing this. There are definitely “grimdark” moments and scenes through the story, but no, I don’t think it ends up being such.

I compare this question to that of Pink Floyd. Back in the day when you were only cool if you listened to heavy metal and hard rock, there was Pink Floyd. A trippy band with lots of deep musical experimentation and big ideas, Pink Floyd could play the hell out of their unique music. And while it wasn’t heavy metal at all, one thing I noticed was that metalheads loved it. If you were a metalhead and you had Duran Duran cassettes, you’d better hide them when your headbanger friends came over. But not so with Pink Floyd. Those could be out in front and played loud. It was even a sign of being cool if you had some sort of Pink Floyd poster on the wall. No, Pink Floyd wasn’t metal, but metal fans found them totally cool and acceptable all the same.

That’s how I see Kings of the Wyld. It’s not grimdark, but just about every grimdark reader has tried this book (or plans to). And most love it. It’s found on their shelves beside the works of George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, and Mark Lawrence. And it looks just fine sitting there with those.

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