Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe
Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe by Cullen Bunn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

That was fun, but it actually got rather disturbing too.

This reminded me a bit of Marvel Zombies, where the writers take the familiar (and beloved) Marvel characters and throw them to the wind. It's an alternate universe, so anything can happen. The shit can really hit the fan because in the main Marvel universe, nothing has changed.

This time around we get to see what might happen if Deadpool were to really back up the junk that's always coming out of his mouth. I mean, really. What would happen if the dude seriously snapped?

He'd fucking kill everyone.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: Beyond This Dark House

Beyond This Dark House
Beyond This Dark House by Guy Gavriel Kay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really don't like poetry. But this is pretty readable, and I wasn't surprised since I like Kay's poetry that filters into his novels.

Favorites are the title poem, and "Guinevere at Almesbury".

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Review: Game: a Thriller by Anders de la Motte

Game: A ThrillerGame: A Thriller by Anders de la Motte
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received a free ebook ARC copy of this book from NetGalley. Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Okay, here's the deal. It took me almost two weeks to read this. I'm not planning a long review, because I'm honestly tired of thinking about this thing and want to wash my hands of it. I feel that I owe NetGalley a review for providing the free copy, so here goes.

There were some good things about this book. The premise: conspiracy theory and a secret Game which can be accessed by specially chosen players on a special cell phone. Cool idea. The book starts out with a bang, jumping right into the action with our protagonist, HP. HP is what he goes by, after his initials. Fine. The game seems exciting at first and soon becomes more dangerous and criminal.

The book had good pacing. The action doesn't let up for long and jumps right back in. Lots of twists and turns. A well built Bourne type mystery/thriller. For that, it's enjoyable.

However, that's just the surface of things. The more deeply we get into the plot, the more we see just how unrealistic it is. I like when "coincidences" get tied together, but here it seems that everything is part of it. And it's just hard to suspend belief and go with it. By the end, it's become rather silly and I kept hoping it would....just...stop.

But the more important negative to this book are the characters. The main characters, that is. Some of the supporting ones are decent enough and used well. But the main two? Damn.

Rebecca is the female lead here. She's a cop with a backstory, lots of stuff making her bitter and angry and out to prove that she's capable. Yeah yeah. Fine. But she's so stupid it's not even funny. She keeps getting great marks in all of her trainings, and they're building her up to be the chosen one, but she's dumber than a stump. Especially where HP is concerned.

HP should stand for Huge Prick. I mean, this is one of the most despicable characters I've ever read about. And we get most of the book through his point of view? God.

I'm wondering if de la Motte meant for HP to be tongue in cheek, or funny or what. But he's not funny. He's an amoral piece of work. Suffering through all the internal dialogue this guy tells himself is pretty bad. Especially after one of his sexual conquests.

I mean, does anyone really think of himself as the "Prince of Penetration" or the "Ayatollah of Fuck n Rolla"? And think of that as a positive quality. Come on. I'd wonder if even an egotistical, sexist douchebag would think of himself this way.

But what is HP's Achilles Heal? His love for his sister. Really? We're supposed to believe that the only moral compass this dude has is a woman? That he respects any female enough to change his behavior, to spend 10 months in prison, for instance? Not when he's the "Omnipotent Pope of Pussy-Crashing", I'd wager.

Anyway, where I felt that the author was trying to make HP funny and pathetic, he failed at making him sympathetic. And he's not funny. I was laughing, but not because the character was amusing. No, I laughed where the writing describing the internal dialogue of this character was laughably bad.

Two stars, and that's only because there were some good twists and turns along the way. HP himself gets shyt for stars.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Storm is Over

By J.R. King, @OfficialJRKing dedicated to Claire Davis....

Monday, December 16, 2013


I know a lot of people have become desensitized to the bad shit that happens in our world, and in our country every day. I have, I admit it.

"Oh crap, another school shooting. That sucks." *clicks -back- to return to Justin Bieber gossip*

Yeah, I get it. No one likes to think about this shit. It's far away, happening to people I'll never know. It's sad, but wtf can I do about it?

Maybe not a damn thing. But then, if one special person can be touched by a little effort, a few clicks of a mouse, why not go for it?

I don't even know who I hope to touch with this, or what. Maybe I'll get nothing out of it but a place to express it all. And maybe that's enough.

Last Friday, a young lady was critically wounded at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. Some of the students live in Littleton as well. That's a place y'all might have heard of.

It was another school shooting. Hell, it was another school shooting in Colorado. Desensitization begins, or does it? Not for me.

I live in Georgia now, but I spent a good chunk of my childhood/early adult life in Aurora, Colorado. My parents and two brothers, plus a young nephew and two nieces all live in Aurora still. I went to Smoky Hill High School and graduated in 1985.

During my senior year, I really followed our football team, attending nearly all of the games. One of these was an away game at Arapahoe High School, and I still remember that trip. (We also played Columbine that season, but it was at a neutral site in the playoffs)

So yeah, I know this community. I had a job after high school that sometimes took me in these areas. Columbine hit me pretty hard in 1999. Arapahoe hit me Friday.

Claire Davis is the 17 year old senior that's still in critical condition at a Littleton hospital. She suffered severe head trauma and is in a coma, though she is currently in stable condition.

A wave of love and compassion has spread over the internet for her, and for the community she's a part of. For the other kids that go to that school, as they deal with the tragedy and try to focus on studying for final exams.

If you've read this far, I'll ask one more thing of you. Pray for Claire's recovery. If you don't pray, think a nice thought. Hug your children. Love your daughters and sons. Let them know it.

And if you would like to light a candle for Claire, by all means.

Follow on Twitter for a little bit. It will touch your heart if you just watch the posts as they scroll by.



I'll be posting more on this. This is why I haven't been reading much. This is why I haven't watched much. This is why I ignored football all weekend. If I get on your nerves, at least this is a place you don't have to look.

But I hope some of you will....

tl;dr version: #PrayForClaire

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Review: Triumph Over Tragedy: an Anthology for the Victims of Hurricane Sandy

Triumph Over Tragedy: an Anthology for the Victims of Hurricane Sandy
Triumph Over Tragedy: an Anthology for the Victims of Hurricane Sandy by R.T. Kaelin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tl;dr version: A solid collection of new SF/F stories, all for a good cause. This was put together in a hurry, to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy. For that, I’ll forgive a number of typos I saw; they were pretty minor anyway. The stories are very good for the most part, and some are excellent. There really isn’t a bad egg in the whole carton.

See below for comments on each story, if you don’t find that idea too painful:

“Old Leatherwings” by Elizabeth Bear. This was a decent story, though the ending left me a bit unsure. Had an American folklore feel to it. 3 stars.

“Quick” by Mark Lawrence. A story set in his “Prince of Thorns” world, this was an enjoyable tale of a young man’s encounter with a witch. And the results. 4 stars.

“When You’re Dead…” by Michael Stackpole. This was fun. A little humor thrown in with this account of a man trying to escape a death trap. 4 stars.

“Tradition” by Michael J. Sullivan. Here we have a tale set in Sullivan’s world of Riyria, though one doesn’t have to read the series to enjoy it. This could have been a folk tale told around a campfire in Elan. Great story with a clever twist or two. 4.5 stars.

“Death Between the Stars” by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I really enjoyed this engaging tale of space species racism (specism?) with a few twists of its own. 4 stars.

“Hell Matter” by Jean Rabe. A Twain-esque story with a boy, some river pirates, and narrated by a cat. Alrighty then. It’s an interesting little journey that our cat takes. 3 stars.

“The Adjoa Gambit” by Rick Novy. Here’s a glimpse of society in the future. It was pretty interesting, but brief. I’d say I was interested enough to want to see more of it in a longer form. 3 stars.

“Hero” by R.T. Kaelin. This is a neat little story about twin mages escaping a prison in a storm. It seems it’s part of a larger series (Terrene Chronicles), so serves as a small glance at the world-building. I enjoyed it, but it ended abruptly. 3.5 stars.

“Big Apple, Small Serpent” by Ari Marmell. This was a weird little one, with the main character a cobra in a zoo. It had a decent flow to it though. 2.5 stars.

“The Pope of the Chimps” by Robert Silverberg. That was pretty good. A real in-depth look at plausible chimp evolution. More realistic than the Planet of the Apes movies at least. 3 stars.

“I Am Made of Every Color” by Jaym Gates. Now that was a bizarre story. Not normally my cup of tea, but it was written well enough to keep my interest. 3 stars.

“Spoils of War” by Adrian Tchaikovsky. This was great. A glimpse into the world of The Shadows of the Apt series, which I’ve been curious about for awhile. This short story reminded me a bit of two Stevens: Erikson for the world-building and state of a war in progress, and Brust for the caste system that everyone lives under. I’ll definitely be checking out the series. 4.5 stars.

“Orphan Train” by Vicki Johnson-Steger. A very engaging account of a little girl in an orphanage who boards a train bound West, where the children are chosen by their adopted families. It was good, and the ending crept up on me before I expected it. 3.5 stars.

“Holocaust” by Maxwell Alexander Drake. Powerful. A grandfather tells his story of how he survived concentration camps. It’s what you think it is, until it isn’t. 4 stars.

“Wrap” by Alex Bledsoe. Very short, but vividly written. Once again, I’m impressed with Bledsoe’s style. 4 stars.

“The Gift of the Dragons” by Stephen D. Sullivan. I liked this, but something was off. The story was good, I liked the characters, and I’m intrigued by the world Sullivan is giving a glimpse of. But still, something wasn’t right. The dialogue didn’t fit just right, maybe. Still, I’d be curious in looking into his other Blue Kingdoms work. 3.5 stars.

“The Kid in the Park” by T.L. Gray. This was really cool. Only a few pages, but very well written. 4 stars.

“Duncan Derring and the Call of the Lady Luck” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. Eh. Space setting adventure of a mercenary/hero for hire rescuing a pleasure barge. It was ok, but full of cheese but very little sauce. 2.5 stars.

“Day of the Shadows” by Donald J. Bingle. Not sure if this is fantasy, or just straight up historical fiction with a myth driving the plot. It was a decent read, but not one of my favorites in the book. 3 stars.

“Angels of Mercy” by Erik Scott de Bie. A fun little superhero(ine) story. It had a Watchmen feel to it, only lighter. 3.5 stars.

“Hearts Desire” by C.S. Marks. I liked that. A good story with the holidays approaching, 4 stars.

“Spurn Babylon” by Tobias S. Buckell. That was ok, but nothing spectacular. I guess it’s a bit of social awareness going on, but I’d rather just have escape. 2.5 stars.

“Parting the Clouds” by Bradley P. Beaulieu. The narrative was good and the story was interesting, but it wasn’t my favorite in the book. Some of it felt like it had been done before. Still, it was a decent read. 3 stars.

“The Burning Servant” by Steven Saus. Enjoyable account of a former slave and her secrets about Sherman’s march at the end of the Civil War. Creepy and well written. 4 stars.

“The Caretaker of Mire” by Gregory A. Wilson. Wasn’t crazy about it at first, but it grew on me some. 3 stars.

“The Last Incantation” by Alex Shvartsman. Very awesome take on wizards and their magic. This had some real potential, but was too short to get going much. 4.5 stars.

“Welcome to New York” by Addie J. King. Here’s one that looks like an introduction to a bigger urban fantasy series. If so, I’m interested. This was a pretty cool glimpse. 4 stars.

“In the Glimpses” by Matt Bone. Speaking of glimpses. I wasn’t crazy about this one, written in the form of a journal entry. Interesting, but not great. 3 stars.

“Coal: 1938” by Doris Stever. That didn’t make much sense, but it was too short to be too annoying. 2 stars.

“Undivided” by Marian Allen. This one was pretty cool. More like, it hinted at some world-building that might be worth exploring in a longer format. This story was decent, but the potential is there for much more. 3 stars.

“Among the Stars” by Sarah Hans. Great story. A shorter than average one, but it didn’t need to be long. Don’t tempt the fates – it never works out. 4.5 stars.

“Sergeant Argent’s Moment in the Sun” by Rob Rogers. This was a fun superhero based story with a twist. The writing style was a little hokey, but it was cool. 4 stars.

“Sperare Victor” by Tim Marquitz. A cool little story of a chance at redemption. 4 stars.

“Shadowlands” by Elizabeth Waters. A retelling of sorts of the Orpheus myth. It was pretty good, though nothing too surprising. 3 stars.

“Wish Upon a Star” by Janine Spendlove. A modern fairy tale. Literally. Decent though. 3 stars.

“A Happy Mother Takes Away Pain” by C.J. Henderson. Here we get a little Eastern flavor, with witch type powers and a djinn. Pretty cool. 3 stars.

“Katanoi” by Philip Athans. Here’s a decent tale about a guy in a prison ship that crashes on a strange planet. Might be a cool universe to explore in a series here. 3.5 stars.

“Don’t Wake Me Up” by Tracy Chowdhury. We’re eased into this one, and it soon becomes very intriguing. Only to end in a rush, jumpy and abrupt. That’s a failing of many short stories. Still, good potential for a larger tale. 3 stars.

“One Good Deed” by Bryan Young. This was a pretty fun space opera type thing. 3 stars.

“The Battle Rose” by S.M. Blooding. Planes vs. airships and mages and treachery. Cool stuff. I’d be curious to see if there was a larger series. 3.5 stars.

“The Ring” by Timothy Zahn. There’s a moral to this story, methinks. And there’s always a price. 3.5 stars.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Review: Being Kalli

Being Kalli
Being Kalli by Rebecca Berto

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free eARC copy of this book in exchange for a review.

So what the hell. This is not my normal reading fare. But...

I met the author some time back on GoodReads and saw a blog post where she was looking for some feedback on a project she wasn't sure about. The early chapters of "Being Kalli" were posted on her website. Curious as the premise seemed...interesting...I checked it out. I only read a little, but found the story and character interesting. I didn't finish it as I really don't read long works on the computer, and by the time I checked back, I couldn't find it.

So here we are. Rebecca Berto asked if anyone was interested in checking out an advanced reading copy for the book, Being Kalli. Oh yes, I remembered that project and was still curious, so I offered to read it. Hey, seemed like she might could use a male perspective. One that usually reads fantasy, horror, sci-fi, or thrillers.

Meanwhile, I'd recently read Precise, a novella by the same author. In that, I'd discovered that I liked her style. It was safe in that it was free, short, and more of a contemporary story than a romance or anything erotica. Safe.

This baby right here is not safe. Noooooo....

It's quite fucking hot. lol

But really, though there are certainly hot moments, and a romance does eventually come into focus, what had me hooked right away was dat ass on the cover Berto's writing style. Yes, this is a story long before it's anything else. A story with intriguing characters. Kalli is such, and so are her friends. Even more is her family. The drama and history with the family really drives this book.

So it's more of a great story with the occasional hot sex scene. You know, I watch Game of Thrones (thanks, Terri). I can hang with that. So to speak.

In all seriousness, this is a well written story about a young lady and her family. Her best friend Scout (same name as one of the all time great female leads) is fantastic and I love her story as well. The romance isn't heavy handed, and the sex scenes are handled well too. They don't feel awkward and uncomfortable. At least, not in any unintended way.

The stories of Kalli and Scout would make for a good movie too. They just might have to give it a good "MA" rating. Yeah.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say? Stephen King has blown me away again. I've been reading him for 30 years or more and I'm rarely disappointed.

There were a couple of flaws in this towards the end, but I won't go into that in the interest of saving spoilers. They were fairly minor points though, and didn't take away from my overall enjoyment.

Great concept, great characters, great sequel. It's awesome to see Danny Torrance all grown up, and I really felt for his character and all he'd had to endure, just in the process of living. The normal stuff he had to go through as well as the gift/burden of having the shining.

Then there's Abra Stone. I loved her - a great second protagonist to go along with Dan. Like a next generation Shining, of sorts.

The True Knot was a pretty cool concept too, though I won't go into the whys of that here. Other secondary characters were great, mainly Dan's friends.

And lots of little nuggets/Easter eggs for the longtime fan to pick up. Heh. 5-stars, for keeping me engaged with every single word.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Review: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

UnteachableUnteachable by Leah Raeder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Would you believe it? I raced through this book like I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I was hooked on the first page, and surprised on the last page that it was over already.

Was this romance?? Erotic romance to boot?

Yes, and no.

I mean, it was both. But again, it was more than either. More importantly, it was a story, and an intriguing one at that.

I kept thinking of the Stanley Kubrick directed Lolita. The original, not the shitty remake. Add some sex scenes and bring it to the modern age, and you've got it. Sorta. It's probably not surprising to think of that movie, as Raeder refers back to both Kubrick the director and the original book by Nabakov (which I've never gotten around to reading). But if you liked the movie, this book might do it for you. While the plot and scenery are much different, it has a dark brush with taboo feel to it that's similar.

Well, maybe more than brush. More like full penetration.

But hey. Where the majority of sex descriptions in books are awkward and silly, Raeder's come out alright. She has a knack for making it real, not using a bunch of stupid fluffy words to pump up the action and make it bigger than life. It feels authentic and isn't clunky at all. (All innuendos are at least partially intentional).

The romance isn't heavy handed either. Well, without it you don't have much story, but at the same time it's not sparkly and unrealistic.

I picked this up after seeing something of a craze for it on GoodReads, though the author had my attention a couple of months back when I'd seen her posts on the site. I found that I liked the way she thought, as a reader of great books. All authors should be readers first, and she pulled that off. Not only that, but she seemed cool and funny too. So what the hell? I saw her book getting great reviews and even scoring a write-in voting on the Choice Awards. It was worth $0.99 to give it a try. It was well worth full price, as it turned out.

So how should a book like this end? Sappy and fairy-taleish? Or depressing and wrist-slittish? Or somewhere in between?

I won't say how it went. I won't even say how I wanted it to end. I will only say that I was pleased with it, as a fan of good story writing.

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Review: Rot and Ruin

Rot and Ruin
Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's finally over. That felt like the longest audiobook I've ever listened to.

It was actually a decent, if slowly paced story. It was like the zombie book with the second most zzzzzzz's that I've read. (See Boneshaker). I did enjoy the post apocalyptic world Maberry set up and the characters. It just seemed to take a long time to get anywhere.

That's the book. Now for the audio. The reader wasn't bad or difficult to listen to, but he talked so slowly I thought I would be a shambling corpse before he finished. And then...

There was a chapter where a few of the teenage boys got together and we're talking about their friend that was a girl. We'll, as teen boys will do, the convo soon drifted to her boobs. This reader. Through that part, he sounded just like Butt-Head.

From that point on, I could not get that out of my head. Huh huh huh uh huh huh. He said "boobs". Huh huh uh huh.


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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: The Secret Lives of Married Women

The Secret Lives of Married Women
The Secret Lives of Married Women by Elissa Wald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book on GoodReads as a part of the First Reads giveaway program. I’d like to extend my thanks to GoodReads, the author, and the publisher.

That was different. That is, while I didn't know whether to expect a "hard case crime" noir type story or a story about repressed sexuality, I didn't get either. Or I got both. Sorta.

Anyway, it wasn't what I would have expected had I any expectations. It was good, however. I did find there was more "hard" than "crime", but then again....well. I don't want to spoil anything.

What I can say is that it was intriguing, and that the prose was excellent. Wald's flow and style bumped this thing a whole star by itself. It was very comfortable to read, even during uncomfortable moments. Yes, I'm being vague.

There is so much to explore here that it just needs to be explored. Rather than put it all in a review, I'd rather tell people to just read the book itself.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: Go the F--k to Sleep

Go the F--k to Sleep
Go the F--k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I actually read along with a pdf copy of the book while I listened to Samuel L. Jackson's brilliant reading.

Did I say it was brilliant? That doesn't do it justice. It was motherfuckin' brilliant.

Everything that Jackson touches turns to motherfuckin' gold. Not just Pulp Fiction, but lightsabers and S.H.I.E.L.D. too. What's in your wallet?

That said, the book itself is hilarious. For anyone that's had small children that you've read to before bed, you'll love this. What starts out as a shared love of reading often turns into a war of endurance, frequently won by the smallest combatant. It's instinctual how these kids can wear you down. Great that I read it on Veteran's Day, eh?

Still, humor aside, I wouldn't trade those memories of reading to my kids for anything.

Just writing this review made me tired. I think it won't be long now before I go the fuck to sleep.....

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review: What Doesn't Kill Her: A Thriller

What Doesn't Kill Her: A Thriller
What Doesn't Kill Her: A Thriller by Max Allan Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book on GoodReads as a part of the First Reads giveaway program. I’d like to extend my thanks to GoodReads, the author, and the publisher.

Wow. That was a thrill-ride. It is so great to pick up a book that does that, jumps right into it and hooks you from the first words. Then carries a story across the years and pages, building a great story surrounding the action. Then it throws you back into the action and doesn't let up.

There were probably a few minor issues with the structure of the plot and some of the character relationships, but I say that vaguely because it was easily overlooked as I rode along with the progress of the story. So yeah, it was a lot of fun and kept my interest start to finish. What more could I ask for?

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition
The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition by Paula Guran

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition

Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book on GoodReads as a part of the First Reads giveaway program. I’d like to extend my thanks to GoodReads, the editor, and the publisher.

“No Ghosts in London” by Helen Marshall. Eh. While it had some cool concepts of ghost traditions, I wasn’t wowed. The sometimes shift to second person was strange here. It was short though, so I didn’t feel bogged down. 2 stars.

“Fake Plastic Trees” by Caitlin R. Kiernan. A post apocalyptic diary-type short where a girl remembers a particular incident. The ideas behind the “EVENT” and the moved-on world 12 years later were very cool. I’d be interested in a novel set in this world. 4 stars.

“The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” by Neil Gaiman. Intriguing little story. I jumped ahead to read this one because it was Gaiman, and because it was short. That part of the plan backfired a bit, as I had to slow way down to comprehend what was happening. If you pick it up and read the story, that will make sense (even if some of what you read does not). Beautifully written homage to Bradbury. 4 stars.

“The Natural History of Autumn” by Jeffrey Ford. Ahh, I liked this one. Full of intrigue and surprises. I really enjoyed the India setting too. Great characters and imagery. 4.5 stars.

“Great-Grandmother in the Cellar” by Peter S. Beagle. Another great one. Spooky and weird, and just twisted enough to appeal to my darker side. Don’t mess with Great-Grandmother! 4.5 stars.

“Renfrew’s Course” by John Langan. Eh. Didn’t really care for this one. There were a few moments of intrigue, but they were buried. Some drug tripping going on, but it was hard to tell which character was which. 1.5 stars.

“End of White” by Ekaterina Sedia. I wanted to like this, as I’ve been curious about the author. But alas, didn’t care for it. It was too abstract to get a hold of. 2 stars.

“Who is Arvid Pekon?” By Karin Tidbeck. That was just weird. It started out interesting, but got even more strange by the end. 2.5 stars.

“Iphigenia in Aulis” by Mike Carey. This was awesome. Best story so far. It has a nice slow reveal, so I won’t spoil it here. But I was glued to every page. 5 stars.

“Slaughterhouse Blues” by Tim Lebbon. This started out with promise, a tale switching between modern time and an event 40 years previous. It got to be pretty out-there by the time the stories converged. 2.5 stars.

“England Under the White Witch” by Theodora Goss. I really enjoyed this one. Great alt-history what-if story. 4 stars.

“The Sea of Trees” by Rachel Swirsky. Right away, I didn’t think I would like this. The language was a bit off, and it had a dreamy/not-making-sense kind of feel. But I kept on, and decided that I did like it. I cared about the characters, and was intrigued with the direction Swirsky was going with it. 3.5 stars.
“The Education of a Witch” by Ellen Klages. Loved it. Of course, I often pull for the villains, so when a little girl came along that did the same, I had to smile. 4.5 stars.

“Welcome to the Reptile House” by Stephen Graham Jones. Decent creepy story, but not all that memorable. 3 stars.

“Glamour of Madness” by Peter Bell. Eh. Didn’t really get it. 2 stars.

“Bigfoot on Campus” by Jim Butcher. This was the one story I’ve read previously, but I read it again while it was here. It was that good. I love all of the Harry Dresden stories, and this was a fine example. 5 stars.

“Everything Must Go” by Brooke Wonders. A sale ad for a house interspersed with the backstory of how it became vacant. It started out a cool concept, but got a bit tiring by the end. 3 stars.

“Nightside Eye” by Terry Dowling. Cool little story about changing perspective to see what’s hidden. The ending wasn’t fantastic, but the story had good buildup to it. 4 stars.

“Escena de un Asesinato” by Robert Hood. Creep-fest. One of those cool stories that deals with art that’s inspired (or created) by the supernatural. 4.5 stars.

“Good Hunting” by Ken Liu. A good story I would have like to seen expanded. Liu has some good ideas he could really run with. 3.5 stars.

“Go Home Again” by Simon Strantzas. Eh. Not so much. 1.5 stars.

“The Bird Country” by K.M. Ferebee. Eh. Not so much either. 1.5 stars.

“Sinking Among Lilies” by Cory Skerry. Eh. Only marginally better. 2 stars.

“Down in the Valley” by Joseph Bruchac. This was a cool one. American Indian folklore meets the modern age kind of stuff. 3.5 stars.

“Armless Maidens of the American West” by Genevieve Valentine. I skipped ahead again to sneak in a short one before bed. This was, well, odd. Good, but odd. Another ghost story with some second person narrative, but this time it worked better than in the Marshall story. It might have been better if expanded. 3 stars.

“Blue Lace Agate” by Sarah Monette. Yes. This is the type of story I read an anthology for. I’ll be looking for more stories about Jamie and Mick. 4.5 stars.

“The Eyes of Water” by Alison Littlewood. Another good one. Creepy and well paced. 4 stars.

“The Tall Grass” by Joe R. Lansdale. This one was short, and felt a little like the idea is overdone (I read Stephen King), but it was well executed and engaging. 4 stars.

“Game” by Maria Dahvana Headley. This started out good, but dragged a lot. By the end it wasn’t so bad, though. I can’t help but cheer for the tiger that’s hunted, truth be told. 2.5 stars.

“Pearls” by Priya Sharma. An interesting take on Greek mythology. It was short, but effective. 3 stars.

“Forget You” by Marc Laidlaw. Another short one, really short. But damn, the imagery was very cool. 3.5 stars.

“When Death Wakes Me to Myself” by John Shirley. Another with a cool concept that went on for too long. By the end, I didn’t care. 2 stars.

“Dahlias” by Melanie Tem. Sometimes shorter is better. These last few short ones were well done, and this one would probably not have worked as well had it been longer. It was the perfect length for the story being told. 3.5 stars.

“Bedtime Stories for Yasmin” by Robert Shearman. I liked this. Kind of a fable, showing how reading at an early age is a good thing. Or should be. “She was frightened of what the story might have let in.” 4.5 stars.

“Hand of Glory” by Laird Barron. This is the final tale in the book, and the longest. Oh, gangsters! Capone-era gangsters at that. So it’s an Untouchables with paranormal? Kinda. Anyway, it’s pretty good. 3.5 stars.

So now, here’s the tl;dr version of my review:

Solid anthology with lots of good dark fantasy tales mixed in with a few clunkers. The nice thing about these kind of books is that when you find a story you don’t like, it won’t be long before it ends and a new one starts.

Favorites are the stories by Butcher and Carey. Runners up would be those by Beagle, Ford, Hood, Shearman, Monette, and Klages.

A few weren’t great, but they were short enough that I didn’t feel the need to gouge out my eyeballs or anything.

Recommended. 3.5 stars overall.

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Review: The Republic of Thieves

The Republic of Thieves
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free ebook ARC copy of this book from NetGalley. Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

4.5 stars. Wow. We've had a long wait for this book, and for the introduction of the character of Sabetha. Both were satisfying.

Lynch's books are always like a big fun chess match. Full of intrigue and funny as hell banter, you never know what to expect. He really knows how to get into a character's head, and then get that character into the reader's head. In the first two books, Lynch made us love the Gentlemen Bastards. In this one, he reaffirms that affection, and brings it around to Sabetha as well.

And some of the side characters have their own charm as well. And those damn bondsmagi!

Seriously, read it. If you haven't read the first two, do that first. Then read this.

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Review: Under the Black Ensign

Under the Black  EnsignUnder the Black Ensign by L. Ron Hubbard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won a free copy of this book on GoodReads, so thanks to them and to the publisher (Galaxy Press).

That was fun. I've read L. Ron Hubbard before, but mainly the Battlefield Earth and Mission Earth books. While those were epic and sprawling, this book is an example of Hubbard's early work, his many pulp adventures.

This one is a pirate tale. It was quickly paced and enjoyable, with lots of action and even a bit of intrigue. A damsel (not always in distress) is also included.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: Precise by Rebecca Berto

Precise (Pulling Me Under, #0.5)Precise by Rebecca Berto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, but rounding up.

This isn't normally the type of book I'd pick up and read. It's what I'd call "chick-lit", for lack of a better term (but not what I'd classify as "romance"). That is, it's fiction that women read. No bullets. No zombies. No swords spilling entrails. No, definitely not a "guy book".

That said, I was drawn to try it out.

1. It was a free d/l on B&N.
2. I have the author as a GR friend.
3. She's never spammed me.
4. She promotes her work in a way that makes it seem interesting, even to a guy (me) that doesn't usually read that type of book.
5. She seems to truly appreciate when people read her stuff.
6. She just seems so nice all the time.

That said, the book itself was pretty good. It was too short to be a novel, but too long to be a short story (hence defining 'novella'). But in this in-between amount of space I found myself caring about the characters. I cared what happened to them and I cared about the resolution the story led to. I probably wanted one particular character to be hit by a bus (or zombies, bullets, swords) but that's a form of caring, right?

I'm rounding up to 4-stars because the ending was well done and I felt the emotional impact of it for Kates.

No zombies, but it was only a novella, after all. Maybe they'll be some in her full length novel that just released this week, Pulling Me Under. Sounds like a great zombie title, eh?

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Review That Never Was...

The Great Goodreads Censorship DebacleThe Great Goodreads Censorship Debacle by G.R. McGoodreader
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I want to read this, but I have such a backlog of stuff I want to read right now, I'm sure it will have been deleted and censored out of existence by the time I get around to it.

That said, I'm giving it 5-stars. It's the best book ever! OMG, I love this book!!!

Or would, I'm sure, had I actually read it.

But I like the idea of the book. So yeah. OMG. YES! 5-fucking-stars.

For sure.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately, the Milk
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If one didn't know that Gaiman was influenced by Douglas Adams before reading this, they do now. This is obviously a kids' book, as one will be able to see immediately by style and the illustrations. But that is in no way saying that adults can't enjoy it. I really enjoyed the twists and turns, and laughed out loud several times.

As always, Gaiman is a joy to read at any age level.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Review: The Shining

The Shining
The Shining by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a great re-read, in anticipation of Doctor Sleep. It was also enjoyable this time around as an audio. I wasn't sure I liked Campbell Scott's reading at first, but he grew on me. I especially loved his creepy voices, for the characters that get creepy.

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Review: Double Feature

Double Feature
Double Feature by Owen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I read this in May, but didn't write a review. I meant to.

And today I picked up the copy of a chapbook given out at a book signing. This is a series of deleted scenes and scrapbook entries. We'll, I enjoyed it and it brought back some of what I felt when reading Double Feature.

First off, Owen King has a brilliant imagination. I am fascinated with the fictional movie career of Booth Dolan, and the film industry glimpses we get of Sam Dolan as he works on his own production.

For much of this book, I was going "huh?" as I wasn't exactly sure where it was going. It seemed to shift around at will, like a Coen Brothers or Tarantino film. But that's a good thing!

As I read these little extras, I really had that impression reinforced. Four months later, and the positive feel I got when finishing this book remained, much as it does years after watching a film by one of those directors. That says something.

This is a book that I will want to read again someday. I believe that with all its little nuances and details, there will be little gems to uncover with each reading. I already felt that was happening as I read again the included "75 Things That Cause Unnecessary Fatigue" in this cool little bonus scene collection.

If this book and Owen King's first, We're All In This Together: A Novella and Stories are any indication, we can look forward to a brilliant career for the writer.

Well done, sir.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Retro Review: The Wind in the Keyhole, by Stephen King

Read in April, 2012

Here's another bonus review. This one stands out as a rare "bad" review of a King book. Note that it sits at 3 stars. For my King ratings, that's pretty low. For my Dark Tower ratings, that's abysmal.

The Wind Through the Keyhole (The Dark Tower, #4.5)The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Uummmmm. What do I say? For as long as I've been on GR, I've seen the debate on the Dark Tower. Which story era is more enjoyable? The "present day (sorta)" ka-tet of Roland, Susannah, Eddie, Jake, and Oy. Or the "Young Roland" era when he ran with Alain, Cuthbert, and Jamie?

So as I'm about to start this book, I find out that many of the "present day" crews are disappointed because we get a little time with the ka-tet, only to have the story shift back in time with Roland telling another story of his youth, much like Wizard & Glass. That book seems to be either a least favorite or a most favorite with everyone. With me, it was a most favorite. So while they were lamenting the return to the early Roland days, I was excited.

But in the end, Ka got me too. King pulled a double switch on us, giving us a little Roland story within the Ka-tet story, only to have THAT one shift to a storytelling situation about a kid we never heard of from even further back. And I'm like, wtf? It's ok for a little bit, but it takes up half the damn book.

The actual story "The Wind Through the Keyhole" is this thing, a fable about a kid disguised and sold as a Dark Tower novel. Ok, so there are some Midworld references and sayings and society stuff built in, so I can see that. It was Midworldian. It was rather interesting to see some stuff in the long ago, before the world moved on.

But if it's always like that, I can see why it moved on. It was boring. That story didn't even feel like a King story. It wasn't bad. It started out alright. By the end it was even engaging. But the middle slogged on quite a bit to the point that I found my mind drifting.

Then we switch back to Young Roland and get a quick wrap up on that story, which was very intriguing and enjoyable. And finally, we switch back up to modern Roland and Ka-tet, getting a wrap up on it too. Which wasn't a wrap up as much as a "ok, we're done screwing around, let's get on with it" that leads into Book 5.

Crap, it was like reading Inception. Only not as good.

Half this book is 5-star material (Young Roland story, Modern Roland interlude). The other half of the book is 3-star (with some boring 2-star fairy chasing in the middle). We'll average it out and call it 4. I'm being generous, but it IS a Dark Tower related book. I won't call it part of the main series though. It's an extra, like The Little Sisters of Eluria or the graphic novel series.

ETA (1/27/2013): The more this book has settled in, the more I am bothered by my overly generous 4-star review. It simply doesn't deserve it. A 4-star should not leave a bad taste in my mouth 8 months after I've finished it.

It's worth reading, but simply does not measure up to the rest of the series, period.

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Retro Review: Mistborn - The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Read in April, 2009

This is one of my earliest reviews from Goodreads, and is to this date it is far and away my most popular. I'm not sure why, really. It's not my best, I don't think. But I'll post it here.

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It reminds me of Ocean's Eleven meets The Italian Job, but set in Mordor after Sauron has ruled for 1000 years or so. In many fantasy stories, a dark lord is rising and it is up to our heroes to defeat him before that happens. In this, the Dark Lord is already set in place as the status quo and the heroes have to motivate others to want a change.....Yet there is a noble class of The Lord Ruler's flunkies who will need to be scammed and robbed along the way, to finance this big revolt.....I love it...

The pace, style, and grand-heist-scheme-in-a-fantasy-setting plot remind me of Michael J. Sullivan's The Crown Conspiracy while the characters and rags-to-revolutionary story make me think of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Certainly a great blending, as both of these were recent 5-star reviews for me....

Okay, now I've finished it. All I can say is WOW. Why did I wait so long to read this? I must read the other two books in the series very soon.......

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: The Rose and the Thorn

The Rose and the Thorn (The Riyria Chronicles, #2)The Rose and the Thorn by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free ebook ARC copy of this book from NetGalley. Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Each one of these books that I read brings it all home. They remind me why I read in the first place. Looking back, I've sometimes wondered if I'd given too high praise of these because I knew and got along well with the author. But no, that's not it. While that's true enough, the books are really that good. Any built in bias on my part is very small, if present at all.

The Riyria books keep me engaged from the first page to the last. They show me characters that I care about to the point where I cringe if something bad happens to them. And there are often moments of "no, he didn't just go there" or outright laughter at an unexpected quip or bit of banter between the characters.

I've enjoyed Sullivan's books from the very beginning, but one thing I'm seeing most in this latest installment is that his writing is getting better. It was good to begin with, but I suspect that some confidence and validation brought about by the popularity of these books has allowed him to relax and just let the story tell itself. Editing will help improve a book, but in this case I feel it's something more. Something I can't quite put my finger on, but I felt it in these two books. Especially this one.

It's great to feel that 'whatever it is'. It's a great feeling to remember why I try to set aside a bit of time each evening to read. This is why.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: The Bank of Fear

The Bank of Fear
The Bank of Fear by David Ignatius

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a First Reads win on Goodreads, so thanks go out to Goodreads and to the publisher (Norton).

I had some serious mixed feelings here, and had to remember that 3-stars = "liked it".

And I'd say that I liked it more than, I didn't like it. There were some issues that I didn't care for along the way, but for the most part I enjoyed the experience.

It was a bit slow going early on. As I was introduced to the characters, I wasn't impressed. Book smart they might be, but they couldn't distribute an ounce of common sense to the lot of them. They were so stupid, it was unrealistic. Unrealistic that they could BE that dumb, and unrealistic that they didn't die from their stupidity. Especially the main character, Sam Hoffman. How a financial investigator could move along at his steady pace of gaffes and blunders made it difficult for me to suspend belief. And I read fantasy as my primary genre. Wizards ain't got nothing on this guy's ability to not only survive, but make money at his chosen profession.

The author is a Washington Post journalist that has won awards, and is seen as an "expert" in the study of the Middle-East. Really? I had a hard time believing in any of the Arab characters either. For the most part, their actions and plots were about as convincing as a Left Behind novel.

But all of that said, I did find myself enjoying the story once I pushed past the annoying flaws in plot and character. I wouldn't go as far as to say I cared about the characters, but once the story really got going, it had me hooked. You know, how reality television will do if you sit there watching it long enough; you know it's stupid, but pretty soon you can't take your eyes off it.

In fairness, as the plot really got churning, a lot of the ridiculous fell aside. Or I got used to it. Anyway, there were lots of twists and turns, and it kept a brisk pace all the way to the end. I was actually surprised with some of the resolution at the end (probably not a surprise, considering). After struggling to make much progress in the first third of the book, I breezed right on through the rest of it. For that, I can appreciate the experience.

But if I ever met Sam Hoffman in real life, I'd probably have to punch him in the face.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: Razor's Edge

Razor's Edge
Razor's Edge by Martha Wells

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a free ebook ARC copy of this book from NetGalley. Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

3 stars, but was almost 2.

I had some really mixed feelings about this book. At times, I enjoyed it. At other times, I just wanted it to be over.

I'll start with the cons:

1. Describe describe describe. This was heavy-handed. When every nut and bolt and widget is described down to the corners, the story loses momentum. Or never gains any. And while good description can help give a clear picture, this did the opposite. The more I read, the more I couldn't visualize anything.

2. The tone was dry. It didn't seem to have highs and lows. Even when the story should have, the tone remained the same throughout.

3. The pacing. It never seems to let up. While this was probably meant to give the narrative suspense, it just served to drag it on and on. And on. And. On. With no rest to absorb heavy descriptions, the pace moved along without any tonal changes, and there was nowhere to take a breath and figure out where we were. Or care.

Now for the pros:

1. The established characters. While a lot of the Star Wars humor and at times light-hardheartedness was thin, the characters themselves were pretty well represented. Leia was Leia, Han was Han, and so on.

2. The new characters. While I would have liked to seen a bit more depth in learning about the supporting cast, I did like what I saw. A varied group of supporting players helped the story along, both allies and adversaries to the main group.

3. The story itself. It was engaging, and the concept behind it was sound. This was a realistic possible mission for the gang between Episodes IV and V, and had some nice twists and turns.

While typing the cons above, I nearly changed my rating back to a 2 again. But then I looked over the cons. How could I give a low rating for a book where I liked the plot, the characters, and the overall idea? The flaws were in the execution, but not the overall tale. So for that I'll stand by the middle ground 3 rating. Which means "liked it". No more, no less. I can go with that.

And that's no small moon.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review: V Wars

V Wars
V Wars by Jonathan Maberry

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars. This looked like it might resemble World War Z with multiple authors and vampires.

It was more like World War Zzzzzzzzzz.

The "war" was a cold one and the overarching story seemed to deal more with social consciousness than with staking bloodsuckers. Oh wait. Just saying that makes me racist against vampires. Should I not use the "V" word? I'd hate to be banned from a cable tv network 30 years from now because they found out I said "vampire".

That said, I did enjoy some of the stories. Mostly I was intrigued with the Maberry sections and those by Nancy Holder. The rest pretty much reminded me that I hate vampires. Well, at least none of them sparkled.

It wasn't a horrible read, and the audio format really worked well for this work. Still, I would have liked to have seen more bullets fly and less political agenda.

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: Paladins of Shannara: The Black Irix

Paladins of Shannara: The Black Irix
Paladins of Shannara: The Black Irix by Terry Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That was a cool little story. A direct sequel to The Sword of Shannara, this gives us a further adventure with Shea, Flick, and Panamon Creel.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Review: Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

That was impressive, I'll admit. A historical fiction with a secondary plot of romance and a dash of the fantastic. What is impressive to me most is that the story remained engaging, even when the romantic aspects kicked in. They weren't heavy or distracting, and actually fit the story really well.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Review: Patient Zero

Patient Zero
Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a ride. When this book picks up, it doesn't let go until all the bullets fly. Well, even after that, truth be known. The action sequences here are so nicely described, I can almost hear the shell casings hitting the floor.

I thought I was getting a police procedural with zombies thrown in. What I read was so much more than that. All of that became obvious when our policeman narrator was recruited by Mr. Church, and his ultra-secret black ops counter-terrorist group. The stuff they do is almost as scary as the things they fight.

And fight, oh yes. There are more bullets in this than the average shooter game. Sweet. It would make a killer movie. (I read that it was being prepped for a TV show, but that ABC passed on it to show the Charlie's Angels remake. Epic fail.)

I see lots of potential for this series, and will be checking it out. Hooah...

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: Bearers of the Black Staff

Bearers of the Black Staff (Legends of Shannara, #1)Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an interesting and entertaining story from the Shannara world history. This one tells us of events that occur a few centuries after the time frame of The Gypsy Morph. It gets us closer to the period of Brooks's classic work, The Sword of Shannra, but we're not there yet. This book does end with a lot unresolved, so I'll need to push on to The Measure of the Magic to get those answers.

But that said, this one is enjoyable. There are a few characters that stand out as particularly interesting (Prue, Inch, and Mistral), while others are likeable but fairly typical Brooks heroes. The story is solid, and though predictable in places for Brooks veterans, there are a few surprises here and there.

I wouldn't recommend this to a newcomer to the Shannara books (too much would be missed that happened before), but it is a good way to spend a few hours for a fan of Terry Brooks and his series.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: Kenobi

Kenobi by John Jackson Miller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free ebook ARC copy of this book from NetGalley. Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

That was a satisfying read. Two things I've always loved are Star Wars and westerns. Here, we have a blending of sorts.

Have you ever wondered how Obi-Wan ended up living as a hermit in the desert of Tatooine? The "why" of this decision is known to fans of the Star Wars series, but here is a chance to see how things went for him as he moved in and got settled.

Lots of references to the movie series are here, as expected. But with that, it's a pretty self-contained story. Assuming the reader has seen the movies. And honestly, who would read this book having not seen the films?

There were even a few minor questions answered. One that always bugged me was about his name. He changed it from "Obi-Wan" to "Ben", in order to hide from the Sith. But why in the hell did he keep his surname of Kenobi if he wanted to hide? That's answered here.

It got a bit hokey towards the end, as the climax to the story came together. But not too bad, certainly not enough to take away overall enjoyment of the book. I will say that there are some characters I'd like to revisit later on, to see how they got along. I'd also like to see more Tatooine-based western-styled fiction. Nice....

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Review: The Crown Tower

The Crown Tower (The Riyria Chronicles #1)The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free ebook ARC copy of this book from NetGalley. Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

4.5 stars. Very nice, satisfyingly fun read.

I really enjoy these books. Sullivan does have some great world-building going on, but it comes up in snippets, not bogging down the story. Otherwise he keeps it at a brisk pace and character driven. The characters are enjoyable and I really get invested. Royce and Hadrian are great together, complimenting each other with skills and constant banter.

And this is their origin story. Or, at least, the origin of their partnership. They're brought together and we get to see how this mismatched pair ends up working together. As prequels go, this is fantastic.

The supplemental characters are good too, notably Gwen and Arcadius. We see how they come into the story as well, as they're also familiar faces from the Riyria Revelations.

And the best part is, there's another book coming out next month...

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: Great North Road

Great North Road
Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

That. Was brilliant.

It took me three weeks to read this nearly 1000 page monster of a book. Normally that would seem like a long time on one book, but not here. A busy schedule kept me from devoting large chunks of time to it, but that was okay. I was able to savor it.

I'd never read Hamilton before, and now I'm a fan. It's rare for a book this size to churn along without boring parts, but this had very few of those. Part mystery, action-adventure, police procedural, epic scale space opera, and human psychological drama, this made for a fantastic experience.

It's a stand-alone novel, so there is no "next book" to pick up. I will be reading more Hamilton though, that is certain.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: Sons of Zeus

Sons of Zeus
Sons of Zeus by Noble Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this audiobook through the First Reads program here on Goodreads. Thanks to the author, publisher, and Goodreads for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Now that was a pleasant surprise. Well, I did expect to like this book as the idea seemed really interesting, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. An interesting premise became an engaging story.

I listened to the audiobook of this, which I received as a GoodReads First Reads Giveaway. I was pleased with that, as a lot of the audios I listen to are historical fiction, and this seemed to fit the niche just right. And while it had lots of what I enjoy about historical fiction from the time period (ancient Greece), it also improved on some.

The battles. Sometimes I find that battles are too drawn out in historical fiction. Too detailed, they often drag on and lose my interest in the telling. But what I liked about Smith's battle descriptions is that he gives it to us in small chunks, then moves the story on to something else. We get the feel of the fighting without the play-by-play that so often becomes tedious.

The characters. I really found myself liking the characters here. There were a lot of them, and it was tough at first to keep up with all of them. (This is a drawback to audio and epics - without seeing the names, I have a harder time learning them. Also, no point of easy reference to go back and look them up). But once I got a handle on who's who, I cared about what happened to them. The villains were pretty cool as well, and even sympathetic at times.

Some of the character voices were a bit off, but that was more the narrator's interpretation than what the story had. I did feel like the dialogue was a bit too "modern" at times, but that did make it easier to follow as well. So there are two sides to that coin.

I'm purposely vague with character names and specific comments for two reasons. One, I'm not sure of the spelling of many (see audio comment above). But more importantly, I don't want to post any spoilers. I'd like anyone that picks this book up to enjoy the discovery as much as I did.

Let's just say I'm very much looking forward to book 2 in the series. From what I understand, it is a planned trilogy. Which should be just about right.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Now that was strange. I fully expected to hate this book. It's gimmicky and thrown together randomly, or so it seemed.

But I found myself strangely compelled to keep reading. It grabbed my interest without warning. I wouldn't say I loved it, certainly, but it kept me engaged well enough to give it an even 3 stars. Maybe my expectations were low enough to make this possible.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: 1356

1356 by Bernard Cornwell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a decent read, but a bit disappointing to one who has read a lot of Cornwell. It really seemed too light hearted, almost slapstick at times. It was more like a caper than a historical fiction novel, but had a drawn out battle thrown in at the end.

I did like the book, but never felt engaged like I have in other Cornwells. It just didn't match up with the previous books in the Thomas of Hookton series.

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Review: The One-Armed Warrior: A Short Story

The One-Armed Warrior: A Short Story
The One-Armed Warrior: A Short Story by Noble Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very nice. I enjoyed this short story which I received from the author today. It was a bonus teaser in addition to the novel Sons of Zeus, which I won as a First Reads giveaway on GoodReads.

Well, I will say that if this short work is any indication of what I can expect to see in the novel, I'm looking forward to that one.

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Review: Guns

Guns by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well done, Uncle Stevie. I hesitated to read this for a long time because I don't own a Kindle I don't agree with liberal politics and I'm frankly annoyed at the number of celebrities that blindly follow such. It's tough to follow people like that who I like for their art or craft, but I keep getting political rhetoric that I disagree with.

However, that's not what this is. While there is a liberal agenda being illustrated, it's done in such a way that it appeals to the conscience, rather than the left or right of the issue. It's shown here to make us think, and that can't be a bad thing. His solutions are much more middle of the road than I would have expected, and it gives me hope that a compromise might be possible.

Another reason for me to admire Stephen King, even if I don't always agree with him.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review: NOS4A2

NOS4A2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review? Wow..

Of course this book deserves a review. It deserves one of the highest order. But what can I write that will do Joe Hill and his wonderful book any justice?

I mean, really. My ability to rave on this awesome book is dwarfed by the sheer wordpower of Joe Hill. So, here we go.

This was cool.

Uhhhh...yeah. Cool. I liked it.

A lot.

See what I mean? I'm humbled.

Truth is, I'm stuck on knowing what to say that doesn't 1) suck, or 2) spoil. The first is a waste of everyone's time, and the second is a betrayal. the book. It's F'in brilliant. Even though (or rather especially because) it does not have any (view spoiler)[vampires (hide spoiler)]. You might expect that it would....but it's better for it all the same.

Okay, Joe. When is your next book coming out?

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Review: Angel Fire East

Angel Fire East
Angel Fire East by Terry Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nice ending to the trilogy.

What this book had that was better than the first two: Villains. Sinister, creepy villains. Not the cookie-cutter bad demons from the first two. Findo Gask and Penny Dreadful were wickedly delicious. Had to love Twitch too, and the whatever-it-was shadow thing (ur'droch).

John Ross was a bit of a dud in this book though; Nest carried the show. I mean, when she was meeting with Gask and Penny, John is just standing around, leaning on his staff. What the hell, man? Are you a Knight of the Word, or what? I got a little fed up with all the "I shouldn't have come here and put you in danger" junk. No, I thought. You shouldn't have come here and stood around like a lump while Nest did all the work. Where I used to work, we had a name for someone like that: a Blister. Because they'd always show up when all the hard work was done.

Anyway, the ending had me scratching my head a bit too. Not the part with Nest, that was awesome. But again, with John Ross. I was like huh?

Well, I enjoyed the book, and the series.

Nest rules.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum OpusThe Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus by Bev Vincent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Looking for a way to revisit Roland and his ka-tet without reading the entire 4000 pages of The Dark Tower series?

Read The Wind Through the Keyhole.

Then here is the place to go. It's a great overview to the characters and story of King's masterpiece.

Do not read this book unless you have finished all 8 7 Dark Tower books. It will spoil it, otherwise.

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The Hellbound HeartThe Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, really. But I'll give it a bump up just for being the place where Cenobites originated.

A gift, for me?

No, thank you. I had a Rubik's Cube in high school. That was bad enough.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: 8 Secondary Characters from The Dark Tower Series

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: 8 Secondary Characters from The Dark Tower Series
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: 8 Secondary Characters from The Dark Tower Series by Bev Vincent

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a decent little companion book to The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus by Bev Vincent. Here's where Vincent explores a few characters that didn't fit into the main book. Useful to Dark Tower junkies, but that's about it.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

A Knight of the Word (Word & Void, #2)A Knight of the Word by Terry Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Number two in the Terry Brooks urban fantasy series doesn't disappoint. I didn't like it quite as much as the first, but it was pretty close.

This has more "urban" as it goes from small town Illinois in the fist book to Seattle in this one. And once there, one must wonder just how many times the characters will stop for Starbucks. Nobody listened to Nirvana in this though (that happened in the first book), so it wasn't too bad for Seattle stereotypes. It did mention the Kingdome a couple of times. That's a bit dated, but as a longtime Broncos fan, I remember that as a scary place.

But back to the story. This happens 5 years after the first book, and we have an all grown up Nest Freemark going to Seattle to knock some sense into John Ross, the Knight of the Word who has lost his way.

And where do we go from here, but to Angel Fire East. Looking forward to that.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

The Walking Dead: Just Another Day at the OfficeThe Walking Dead: Just Another Day at the Office by Jay Bonansinga
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Decent little "short" story, and I do mean short. This was one of those ebooks priced at $.99, and for the first time I felt a little cheated by that price. Not that it was a bad read, but that it was so brief.

Still, rating the content (what there was of it), I enjoyed the 20 minutes or so that it took me to go through this story at a leisurely pace.

I do have one gripe, though. It bugged me when I read Rise of the Governor and this story starts out with it. Whenever the time is noted in these books, it specifially gives that time in Central Standard Time. It makes repeated notes of the time being Central Standard. Well, the thing is, these stories take place entirely in the state of Georgia. Which is on Eastern Standard time.

No character is going to fall back an hour to convert to Central time during the zombie apocalypse. It's just not going to happen. Not when said characters have lived in Georgia and Eastern Standard time for their entire lives. I was born in Central time and lived half my life there, but now that I live in Georgia, I go by what time it is here.

I figure it's because Bonansinga is from Chicago, which is on Central time. Fine. But couldn't somebody have caught that little detail and fixed it?

And now my review is as long as the story I'm reviewing.

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The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1)The Gunslinger by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my fifth or sixth time reading The Gunslinger, but my first to do so with audio. I've read the original version and the revised edition a couple of times each. When I did my series re-read a couple of years ago I read the revised.

Some friends and I got to talking about the audios, comparing the readings of Frank Muller to that of George Guidall, who did the last three books in the series. As it happens, Guidall did the revised reading of The Gunslinger. Though Guidall is one of my favorite audiobook narrators, I did prefer the readings of Muller in the early books.

This discussion got me thinking and I was in need of a new audiobook. So here we are. I'd read the revised edition the last couple of times I'd read The Gunslinger, so this seemed like a good idea. And it was. I really like the way Muller handled this series.

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The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor (The Govenor Trilogy, #1)The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well now. That was interesting.

I actually had a bit of a time getting into this one. It didn't have the pace of the comic series (that this is based on), and was written in the present tense. That's a bit jarring for me, though I did get used to it.

Note that this is the backstory of the Governor from the Walking Dead comic book/graphic novel series. It is NOT the backstory of the character by the same name/title in the AMC television series.

As far as a backstory goes, this one is pretty damn good. It's shocking at times, and heartfelt at others. And whether you want to or not, you might just feel some degree of sympathy for what will become one of zombie literature's most notorious villains.

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Running with the Demon (Word & Void, #1)Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now that was just what I needed. After reading a pretentious spewing of literary "greatness", I needed something that I could actually enjoy. And enjoy it I did, more than I expected to.

I've been reading Brooks for years. When I was ten years old, I read his only book at the time, The Sword of Shannara. I remember liking it a lot and being really annoyed that he didn't have anymore books out. When Elfstones of Shannara came out a few years later, I was enthralled; it was even better.

I got side-tracked awhile later and fell behind, but in recent years my stepdaughter has helped me get back on track. She's a huge Brooks fan, devouring each new book as it comes out. So I've borrowed some of her books and worked on getting caught up.

This was incredible. I was actually surprised at how much I liked it. I was wanting to find my comfort zone, and knew that Brooks was safe. That is, I'd enjoy the book and feel normal again, reading a book with enjoyable story and not something that some haughty author is trying to impress me with. But this book exceeded my expectations.

It was like Elfstones, only set in the modern world. I love the blending of majic and reality much more. I don't want to spoil anything, as the discovery was half the enjoyment.

So next up, without question, is A Knight of the Word.

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Paladins of Shannara: The Weapons Master's Choice (Short Story)Paladins of Shannara: The Weapons Master's Choice by Terry Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here's a short story featuring one of the most popular characters from The Wishsong of Shannara, Garet Jax.

As short as it is, Brooks manages to pack a cool fight scene and a beautiful woman into the story. Not bad.

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