Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review: Peacemaker by K.A. Stewart

PeacemakerPeacemaker by K.A. Stewart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an eArc copy of this from NetGalley.

3 stars, almost 3.5.

Here is a nicely structured novel of the Weird West. It made for a quick, enjoyable read if you like a bit of magic added to your Westerns. Lawman (Peacemaker) Caleb Marcus and his trusty familiar Ernst travel out west on their new assignment and realize that something isn’t right in the small town of Hope, somewhere in Kansas.

That said, I couldn’t rate it higher than that. While there was a huge amount of potential here, most of that wasn’t quite realized. I’ll start on the positives though:

The magic system is very impressive. Stewart explains the basics of Arcane powers as used by Caleb and the characters that aren’t either Barren (born without ability) or Scoured (the power burnt out of them). There is mystery with it, but we get to see how Caleb uses it and how an old war wounding has left him partially hampered. The magic employed by the Cheyenne is similar, but different. Caleb himself is even mystified by how it works, and I felt that was a great twist to the Arcane system and the lack of understanding between the cultures.

Caleb’s backstory and the alt-history that includes the Arcane are very interesting. Not only does this form the backbone of the story background, but it sets up nicely for a longer series set in this Weird West. I’m looking forward to what Stewart can do with this material in future installments.

Now for the negatives:

The idea of “Agent” Caleb Marcus was intriguing. He seemed like Harry Dresden with a badge (and an actual hat!) at first glance. The problem is, he didn’t have much personality. He was polite. That’s the one characteristic we can gather as he shows very little else. He had no wit, and despite having such a grim backstory, he wasn’t really very dark. He was a “good man” but didn’t seem driven to do anything for any reason except that it was the right thing to do. Flat out, he was boring.

His side-kick familiar was a little more interesting. Ernst seemed at first like Bugs Bunny with antlers, as he’s described as taking the shape of a jackalope. While Ernst does have some wit and the dynamic between him and Caleb is something to build a story around, I feel like potential was lost. There was a little banter between them, but not a lot. This is an area that could have really lifted the overall feeling of enjoyment with this book, and it just didn’t.

Also, while well-constructed and written, the story didn’t overly impress. Most of it was fairly standard Western flair: lawman stranger, corrupt rancher, down-trodden and victimized Indians, scared townspeople, strong willed schoolteacher, orphan boy with the heart of gold but rough manners, etc.( I did really like the Scottish bartender though.) The storyline was predictable for the most part, though executed without any problem. But except for the Arcane elements, there just weren’t a lot of surprises.

So overall, I’d say it was an enjoyable novel. But I just felt it could have been excellent. There is awesome potential for the series still, and I’m hoping that as she finds her groove with it, Stewart will realize this potential in future installments. Definitely one to watch.


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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Batman - The City of Owls

Batman, Vol. 2: The City of OwlsBatman, Vol. 2: The City of Owls by Scott Snyder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy Owlshit, Batman!

That was fun. I have to say, I'm very much impressed with Scott Snyder's Batman in this DC "New 52". The artwork by Greg Capullo is phenomenal and Snyder's writing is cutting edge.

The characters, story (both current and backstories), and the layered depth of Gotham as told by Snyder and Capullo (and others) is simply brilliant. It's friendly to new readers and old fans alike.

I'll be reading more of this title, to be sure.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Runner by Patrick Lee

RunnerRunner by Patrick Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Wow! What a rush!

This thing takes off running (pun intended) from the very beginning and doesn't let up. Lee has a talent for suspence and for quickly developing characters. Just a few pages in, I cared what happened to Samy Drydan and Rachel and I really couldn't put the book down easily through the whole thing.

This book struck me as something of a cross between The Bourne Identity and Firestarter. Lots of action, plot twists, and character relationship dynamics at every turn. And not only is Lee great at building the suspence, he has a skill for tapping the emotions of his reader (or this reader at least).

So why not 5-stars? It's closer to 4.5, to be honest. As riveting as the plot is, a lot of the aspects of it are pretty far-fetched. Disbelief was suspended though, with the skilled writing and fast pace. I'm definitely interested in reading more work from Patrick Lee.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Orders is Orders

Orders is OrdersOrders is Orders by L. Ron Hubbard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I won a free copy of this book through a GoodReads First Reads giveaway. Thanks also to the publisher (Galaxy Press) for providing this copy.

3.5 stars.

I think that this is now my favorite of the Golden Age stories that I've read from L. Ron Hubbard.

This one is about a couple of Marines that are trying to get some essential supplies into a besieged town in China, but they have Japanese forces in their way. It's a great glimpse into history, to a time where tensions between the Americans and Japanese were building.

A great afternoon read.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Review: Swan Song

Swan SongSwan Song by Robert R. McCammon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now that was a big ass book.



Well, not exactly.

But it's a big-un.

It's pretty good though. I've often heard how this is similar to The Stand by Stephen King, which is one of my all time favorite novels. And it is similar, though different.

I mean, they're both big ass epic books about the end of all things and the people that survive to set shit right again. Good vs. Evil and all that. "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine." -R.E.M.

But the characters are different, with their own backgrounds and situations. The way things are handled is different. Enough that this book stands well enough on its own.

Figuratively, of course. I mean, books don't really stand. Not even The Stand. They have no legs.

They'd have to be thick legs too, to hold these big ass books up.



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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Review: Deadpool Classic, Volume 1

Deadpool Classic, Vol. 1Deadpool Classic, Vol. 1 by Fabian Nicieza
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, that was disappointing.

Back in the day when I regularly read X-Men comics and those about their splinter groups, Deadpool was one of my favorite supporting characters.

This is actually a good illustration as to why he made a good supporting character. That is, not a focus character.

This volume includes New Mutants #98, the first two Deadpool miniseries (The Circle Chase & Sins of the Past), and the first issue of the long-running Deadpool series.

The New Mutants issue was one I enjoyed back in the day, as it was part of the story where Cable takes over the New Mutants and transforms them into X-Force. The Rob Liefield days, yanno. Here by itself, it's disjointed. If you didn't know the story of the New Mutants, most of this comic would be confusing. It is the first appearance of Deadpool, though, and that part of it certainly fits.

The Circle Chase was boring. Lots of mercenaries chasing a secret disc with the ultimate weapon, blah blah. Lame one-liners and lots of bullets, but little substance.

Sins of the Past was more of the same: continuous fighting with bullets and one-liners. It was a little better though as there was actually a dynamic between Deadpool and Siryn.

Deadpool #1 was just horrible. Bad art and the story made no sense, jumping around and unconnected to itself. Boring as hell to boot. Had I not already gotten away from reading comics when this came out, I would have been highly disappointed.

All in all, great artwork (except that last issue) and some cool guest appearances. But not worth a lot of time, and not sparking interest in continuing the Deadpool series.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Review: Killing the Dead by Scott Marlowe

Killing the Dead (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #2)Killing the Dead by Scott Marlowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet. That's more like it. This was more of a short story than the first, which was a quick introduction.

I can see where these will be an entertaining batch of stories once there are more out there. Encouraging.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Review: Fine Wine by Scott Marlowe

Fine Wine (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #1)Fine Wine by Scott Marlowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like freebies. This is one of those, and it sets up a new series of short stories about an assassin. Nice.

Enjoyable story to start it off, but I'd have liked a bit more. I guess that's what a teaser is supposed to do though, eh?

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Review: Wolverton Station

Wolverton StationWolverton Station by Joe Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How cool was that? Perfect way to spend a lunch break (besides eating).

I hate comparing Hill to his Dinh (Father), Stephen King, because Joe Hill is a brilliant author on his own merits. But I will say that this story shows another trait they share - the talent to take what might be a ridiculous idea in the hands of most authors and make it brilliant.

That's all I will say on the comparison. That's really all I will say on the story too. It's too short to read a summary in a review when that time could be spent reading the story itself.

But I'll say that, as with most Joe Hill stories, this kicks ass.

And that I wish I was listening to Warren Zevon while reading it.

Arrrroooooooowwwww ....

Oh, and one more thing. Hill's awesome new word: businesswolf. I love it.


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Review: Black Towers to Danger

Black Towers to DangerBlack Towers to Danger by L. Ron Hubbard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won a free copy of this audiobook through a GoodReads First Reads giveaway. Thanks also to the publisher (Galaxy Press) for providing this copy.

Another fun pulp-era story from L. Ron Hubbard. This is the third of these that I've read over the last year, and the second one on audio. I'd have to say that this was my favorite of the three. This has a western feel, though the setting is actually in Venezuela, where rival oil drillers are competing.

Guns and great escapes and brawls and a feisty young lady are the things that make Bill Murphy's life interesting. Plenty of action and some humorous side characters add to the flavor of it all.

Sure, the dialogue is a bit dated, but this was written in the 1930s. For that, it isn't bad. It's actually not as out of place as it was in those other two stories I'd read.

Overall, not a bad way to spend 2 hours, as the audio has a great cast of actors to play the parts. I think these adventures might work a little better on audio, as it gives the pulp style better room to flow properly.



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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Christmas 2013 Review: The History of the Snowman

The History of the SnowmanThe History of the Snowman by Bob Eckstein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Whoah. Chris read a non-fiction book about the history of snowmen? (Or snowpeople, to be PC) WTF?

Well, two things happened to make this possible.

1. Simon & Schuster sent me an email wishing me a happy holiday (Merry Christmas to be un-PC) which included a link to a free ebook download of this. Cool. I like freebies.

2. I had a brief moment of holiday (Christmas) spirit on Christmas Day (December 25 if that C-word offends thee). It was very brief, but long enough for me to start this book. And once I start something, my OCD (batshit crazy) kicked in and I couldn't not finish it.

3. (Okay, I lied. There were 3 things) I was doing a reading challenge and needed a book with a red cover. (Red isn't meant to offend either)

4. (Now doubling the initial things that made it possible. Get over it) Since I don't own a Kindle and there was no link to Nook, I had to download to my iphone. And that meant I had to install an app. All of that software manipulation just to see if it worked. Hell, this is the real reason I opened the book and started turning pages. Screw the holiday season (not meant to offend Christians or Holiday Marketing Whoreporations) (Ok, that last word was meant to offend. If you are a coroporate entity that markets Christmas starting the day after Labor Day, kindly go fuck yourself)

So, the Grinch version is?

Damn, I haven't even reviewed the book yet. (Please don't delete my review. I've said nothing to offend the author) (Unless he's a Christmas marketing guru or hates the color red)

The book was pretty decent. Interesting at times as well. I've never stopped to consider (re: give a fuck) about snowmen in our culture. But yes, they are everywhere and have been there for a long time. The history that this guy unturned was kind of fascinating (the egg nog hadn't kicked in yet)

I actually found the first half of the book more interesting, that dealing with modern times and recent history (the politically correct world). The second half went back to the Dark Ages and old Europe, and while there were some interesting points, most of it was name/date dropping like you see in the dry old history textbooks.

Some of it was funny. Like, I've never thought about the sexual implications that are often associated with snowpeople (because we humans really are perverts). Well, okay. The carrot nose - I get that. But I never knew that Hans Christian Anderson was writing about gay longings by way of a snowman that fell in love with an oven (that he thought was a girl oven, no less). I never realized Hans Christian Anderson was gay, for that matter (historians haven't realized it either - they speculate and it's PC friendly). That analysis was pretty cool, if it's true that he wrote a lot of his stories to express his desires. Pretty slick too, if it's true. If not, I guess it just made for good stories.

But an oven? (Symbolically female, for sure)

I can't believe this review has gotten this long. And that I haven't yet mentioned Frosty.

There, I did it.

But yes, it was enjoyable enough to spend an afternoon on. And the best part of reading a book with holiday components? Though songs (like "Frosty the Snowman") are mentioned several times, I didn't have to listen to them!

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Review: The Book - M. Clifford

The BookThe Book by M. Clifford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Don't Read the Book

You know. I really shouldn't complain. It warned me - told me flat out not to read it. But I did it anyway. So it's my fault.

So this looked like a cross between Fahrenheit 451, The Matrix, and Fight Club. Except, that didn't turn out to be the case.

There was a good story here. It was implausible at times, but I can suspend belief and go with it. Except when I have to read it twice.

Yes, read it twice. On the average, I probably read every sentence twice. Often, they made no sense, so I had to go over them again. Even when they did make sense, I couldn't trust them and read them again to make sure that what I'd read was, in fact, what was there. And that it made sense.

Crap, my own sentences are starting to look like the ones in this book...

Early on, I stated in a status update that an editor was needed. But now I can see why that didn't happen.

The editor quit. Had to. There's no way anyone took that job and kept it. Who would? You'd have to edit everything, basically rewrite the book.

Now, with the story being what it is, that's surely ironic. Maybe it was intentional. Who knows?

Well, there were too many adverbs and adjectives. Too much describing. I mean, all descriptions were describably described by a describing describler.

Huh?

"There was a scratching. A shuffling. Then footsteps followed by the cracking sound of a plastic bag being whipped open in hollow, suspicious air."

Ummm...too much. Cracking and whipping of the bag, I can envision. But the hollow and suspicious air? Come on. What is that supposed to even be?
Also, this thing where he throws several sentences fragments. Together. With periods between. Ummm, commas are your friend.

"Holden struggled against their grip like an untamed tiger." As opposed to a tamed tiger.
"Under their sudden weight, while they grappled for a piece of Holden they could restrain, he turned to see..." Umm. He's standing. Are they on his shoulders? And if so, how could he turn?

See, often these sentences don't make sense. At the very least, they're so packed full of description, they're distracting. The writer is more visible than his story, and that makes suspension of belief impossible.

"'That man there, and the older couple sitting on the couch, those are two of Winston's neighbors,'" Hmmmm. One, two...three.

"Holden awoke at four o'clock in the morning. Exactly. He had left the fan on in the shower and when the curfew ended, it burst forth from its slumber to wake him from his. He sat in bed, staring at the white numbers on the face of his alarm clock."

Ok, see. This is typical. If you read it four or five times, you might get the visual that Clifford is trying to convey. But it takes you four or five times. If it takes more than once, it's a fail.
Fans don't burst, they spin. When I saw that, I thought water was bursting forth to wake him up from the shower head. That makes sense, at four a.m. But then he's in bed. Looking at the face of the clock, rather than behind it, for the time.

So how much time does this take up, when it should have been read in about two seconds?

The story was decent. The work required to get the story was painful. The feeling I walk away with after reading this isn't a good one.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Review: A Tale of Two Cities


A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I recently had a challenge task to re-read a classic I'd read in high school. I had also recently received a free audiobook copy of this book. So it all came together naturally, and here we are. The best of times and the worst of times.

I really enjoy the writing of Dickens, though I've only attempted a few of his works. I don't always understand what's going on, but the flow of his language is beautful and engaging. This time around, I found SparkNotes online and kept up with the chapter summaries as I listened. This helped clarify a lot and caught me up on points where my focus had drifted off a bit.

The reader was excellent, perfect for this story.

I felt like I had to come back and review this, as I didn't write one when I finished. But ever since I have, the book has been coming back to my mind. It is such a moving experience. Not only for the writing, but for the story itself.

And it has me wanting to try more Dickens.



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Review: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe


The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



A fantasy classic!

Well, that's original. But hey, it's accurate. This was my second or third readin, as I read it during my grade school years.

What's changed? I've changed (gotten older) so I wondered if this book would hold the magic it'd had when I was a kid. Since I read much more epic and complex books now, I was concerned.

But I need not have feared. While the "fairy tale" style of the book stands out now more than it had in my memory, it was still a very enjoyable story. The fairy taleness of it actually covered some of the flaws I might have pointed out had it been written in a more "mature" narrative. As it was, the style worked very well for the story being told.

A friend of mine also reading the series said that it "felt like coming home". That was such a beautiful statement, and felt true. Thanks for sharing that thought, Emily.

Had this been a new read, I probably would have settled my rating in at a solid 3-stars, but it gets an extra one for the wonderful memories it's provided over the years.



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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Review: Mitosis


Mitosis
Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



If you enjoyed Steelheart, you'll probably like this too. It's a great follow-up short story to that novel.

Important: DO NOT read this if you have not finished Steelheart. It will spoil the novel for you.

But if you have, it's a very cool action packed little story. It seems that it will be a nice bridge to the next Reckoners novel, [b:Firefight|15704459|Firefight (Reckoners, #2)|Brandon Sanderson|/assets/nocover/60x80.png|21979689].



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