Sunday, December 27, 2015

Review: Hood

Hood Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

DNF'd at 35%. I'm just not feeling this. The story is decent enough and I love the idea of a gritty, realistic, Welsh Robin Hood. The execution is just falling flat, and there's too much out there I want to read to continue reading a book I don't care about.

There's something off about this writing. While I wouldn't necessarily call it bad, it feels forced. Like the author is making a conscious effort to "dumb down" his narrative to make it YA. It ends up reading about as flat as a poorly done translation from a foreign language.

So yeah, I don't think this fails because it is YA. I think it fails because the author isn't writing YA well. I have no idea how his writing is for his "adult" books, but this didn't give me a lot of incentive to try any.

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman, Vol. 3: Casualties of War

Superman/Wonder Woman, Vol. 3: Casualties of War Superman/Wonder Woman, Vol. 3: Casualties of War by Peter J. Tomasi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was given the opportunity to read this graphic novel by the publisher through NetGalley.

The artwork was really good and vibrant (though I'm not crazy for that cover). The story was decent, though not entirely inspiring or captivating. I did enjoy how Superman and Wonder Woman worked through their problems together, learning to balance the need to protect the innocent with the urgency to take down the bad guys. They are able to play to each others' strengths, which is what you want in a super team up.

That said, it was a decent little bit of entertainment without being something to pass awards out for.

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Review: Luna: New Moon

Luna: New Moon Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brilliant!! I devoured this book over a few days, skipping television and movie options to just immerse myself into the low gravity. I'm still depressurizing.

I've seen this book called "Game of Thrones in Space", and I'd have to say not so much. Only in the sense that it would make a fantastic series on HBO which would compare. I've also seen it compared to "Dallas", and there is a bit of that, but the most accurate comparison is easily The Godfather. That book/movie's sense of family and survival against long odds and adversaries definitely struck more of a moonbeam here.

When is the sequel coming out?? That one will shoot straight to the top of my TBR as soon as it's available.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Review: Jersey Tough: My Wild Ride from Outlaw Biker to Undercover Cop

Jersey Tough: My Wild Ride from Outlaw Biker to Undercover Cop Jersey Tough: My Wild Ride from Outlaw Biker to Undercover Cop by Wayne "Big Chuck" Bradshaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this ebook for review from the publisher through NetGalley.

My recent love of the TV series Sons of Anarcy drew me to request this book, with its subject matter of a patched outlaw biker turned policeman. I was curious to see how he pulled that off, and how he came to the decision to make the potentially lethal switch in careers.

Beyond that, I found this to be a fascinating memoir. Bradshaw's experiences with the Breed and the Pagans was as interesting as anticipated, but I was even more intrigued by his accounts of his life in the US Army and then later in his police work.

This is a man who has been through quite a bit in his lifetime. He's witnessed lots of violence and seen the darker side of humanity throughout much of his life. But this isn't a story that makes us feel sorry for his experiences and tough life. Rather, it shows a great way to look at life's challenges and meet them with integrity. At any point during these years Bradshaw could have gotten lost in what life threw at him, but he shows here how he could rise above.

This book was as enlightening as it was fascinating.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review: Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Love. Yes, folks, it is love at second sight.

I liked this book quite a bit the first time around, when I'd listened to the audiobook. Here's my review of that listen, from 2012. It's interesting to look back at that review now, as I enjoyed the book quite a bit more this time around. The things that annoyed me on that earlier review didn't bug me at all this time.

So I'm not sure if that's that I prefer the reading to the listening, or if I'm just getting more of the fine detail this time through. I remember being lost at times before, and I didn't get that now. So it's probably a combination of the two.

At any rate, I read this again in preparation for moving forward with the series. I'm glad I did, as in many ways this felt like a new experience. I'm certainly a lot more fresh on the story, and the universe laid out by "Corey" here.

So, let's see what kind of war Caliban is about, shall we?

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Review: The Sandman: Overture

The Sandman: Overture The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I got this ebook from the publisher through NetGalley.

2.5 stars. I'm rounding up because of the artwork, the cool McKean covers, and the great epilogue. Oh, and the special appearances of Merv Pumpkinhead and The Corinthian.

Yes, it was fun to revisit some of our old friends from The Sandman. As per usual, Neil Gaiman's imagery is wonderful and goes perfectly with the excellent artwork provided. The story though, left me mostly confused and eager to get through it. I get that it's part of it, the Dreaming and all of that. If Dream himself is confused and lost, I imagine that all of us dreamers would be too.

It just didn't pack the punch of the main series. It's decent enough as a revisit, but I would not recommend a new reader to start here. If I had started with this volume, I highly doubt I would have continued with the main series.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: The Fold

The Fold The Fold by Peter Clines
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free ebook of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley.

That was a fun ride. Just what I needed at the time - a fast paced read with fun characters, interesting science, occasional humor, and lots of weird. It may have very well pulled me up from a recent reading slump as I devoured the bulk of the story over a weekend.

This is my second Clines book, and it read as well as the first one, 14. I'll definitely be taking on more books by this author.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: The Sagan Diary

The Sagan Diary The Sagan Diary by John Scalzi
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Eh. Poetic and introspective, but not really all that interesting.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review: Columbine

Columbine Columbine by Dave Cullen
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I graduated in 1985 from Smoky Hill High School in Aurora, Colorado. I remained in the area for a few years, and I still have family there. A few years later, I joined the US Air Force. I still go back when I can, but vacations aren't cheap.

Thanks to the internet, media, and remaining family in the area, I keep up with some of the important events. I follow the Broncos, Avalanche, and Rockies, counting them among my favorite sports teams. By April 20, 1999, I hadn't been back for awhile and one event brought it all back home: The Columbine Massacre.

In the thirty years since I graduated, there have been far too many tragic stories in the news. On December 13, 1993, a disgruntled former employee returned to a Chuck E Cheese store in Aurora and killed 4 people. One of those was a Smoky Hill graduate named Ben Grant that my younger brother knew. The perpetrator has been sitting on Death Row ever since, getting stays of execution each time it comes up.

Twenty years later to the day, December 13, 2013, a gunman shot Claire Davis at Arapahoe High School and killed himself. She died 8 days later.

On July 20, 2012, another gunman went on a killing spree at a movie theater in Aurora, killing 12. This was the biggest news from the area since the Columbine killings, where two students killed 11 other students and a teacher, then themselves.

Each of these events hit close to home. Yes, there have been many others, but these were the ones that I felt personally.

We used to take my oldest daughter to Chuck E Cheese when she was little, to the same location where the shooting happened a few years later.

When I was a senior, our football team was one of the best in school history, and I remember attending a game at Arapahoe High, and playing Columbine High in the playoffs at a neutral site.

One of the places my friends and I frequented on weekends and afternoon was the Aurora Mall. This was of course several years before the Century 16 theater was built, where the shooting happened. But its location was adjacent to the Aurora Mall.

So when I ran across this audiobook telling an in depth account of the Columbine tragedy, I jumped on it. It tells the events of that day, of course. But it also goes into the background of the people involved, before and after the shootings. It looks into the minds of the killers, and explores their motivations and reasoning. It tells the story of the victims and their families, and how they dealt with it years later.

The author of this book obviously did quite an extensive amount of research. Not only did Dave Cullen tell the story garnered from all the police reports, interviews, and personal writings, but he presented them in an objective way. That is to say, without laying down judgement. Rather than worry about laying blame or pointing fingers, Mr Cullen shows the reader the human side of everything, from all angles.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review: Professional Integrity

Professional Integrity Professional Integrity by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love the Riyria books by Michael J. Sullivan. I enjoyed this novella as well as the other stories and novels in this world, but I suppose you can say that the rating here is lower than the others because the bar has been set pretty high. That said, this was pretty darn good. I enjoyed the banter of Royce and Hadrian, and it was great to see them handling another heist that didn't go as planned.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Review: Dune

Dune Dune by Frank Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me a few months to get through this, but it was my third or forth reading. It's still a great book, and most of the gap between readings was caused by real life and other books that I didn't already know.

Still, it's good to revisit.

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Review: Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free ebook copy of this graphic novel from the publisher through NetGalley.

Stars and stones! It's great to get a new story in the Harry Dresden series. One thing that I really like about these graphic novels, is that Butcher himself is involved in the writing. That makes the characters and pacing fit what fans of the longtime series are used to.

The art is pretty darn good too, capturing the characters in a way that's close to what I'd pictured them as by reading the books.

This story wasn't as solid as most of the novels, but it still made for a great afternoon diversion, and a little something to tide us over until Peace Talks.

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 7: War Torn

Wonder Woman Vol. 7: War Torn Wonder Woman Vol. 7: War Torn by Meredith Finch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Lots of action, decent story line, fantastic artwork, and some great cameos made this an enjoyable read for me. This was my first taste of the New 52 Wonder Woman, and I was pretty impressed. Admittedly, I probably would have enjoyed the story even more if I had read the earlier volumes, but the writers here were good at summarizing things that had gone before and making it easy for new readers to join the ride.

As I said, the artwork was awesome. One thing I've seen on these New 52 titles so far is consistently impressive art. The colors come right off the page.

To be honest, I haven't been too familiar with the character of Wonder Woman since the days that this lady played her on television:

She's quite the impressive in-depth character today, and I'm very glad that I requested this title. I'm looking forward to further adventures.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Review: The Little Men

The Little Men The Little Men by Megan Abbott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

This was fun. Right from the start I could tell I had something worthwhile in my hands, as Abbott lays out the 1950s Hollywood neighborhood that is the setting for this novella. In a few short paragraphs, she conveyed the imagery so well that I wanted to visit there, or maybe stop and have a beer.

This story actually felt like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Perhaps the time period that the story was in added to that feel, but the while way it unfolded would have fit perfectly into one of their half hour segments. There's a mystery here, and several chills as Abbott weaves her chilling little tale.

Megan Abbott is certainly on my list of authors to watch.

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Monday, September 7, 2015

Review: The Names

The Names The Names by Peter Milligan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a free eBook copy of this title from the publisher through NetGalley.

This was a new title in the DC Vertigo line, and it seemed interesting enough by its description. Well, it's pretty good. Lots of big finance espionage and secret organizations and murdering psychopaths aplenty, and the key is figuring out which of these that the characters belong to.

It has humor, sex, violence, and lots of twists and turns. So it's certainly worth reading on a weekend afternoon, and the artwork is pretty decent too. All in all, a good read if you're in the mood for a graphic novel with a good storyline, but need a break from the superhero standard fare.

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Review: The Death of Dulgath

The Death of  Dulgath The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I was invited to be a part of a Beta read of this novel, and was provided an ebook copy of it with which to read and take part in chapter analysis and surveys.

Once more, I have to say that I really enjoyed an entry in the Riyria series of books by Michael J. Sullivan. These books are always a satisfying read, full of action, intrigue, suspense, and twists and turns.

One thing I enjoy most is reading character development. Regardless to what happens or goes on around them, I like to see characters reacting like real human beings. That is, they all have unique qualities that define them, and yet they also grow and adapt to their experiences and feelings. Within that scope, both Hadrian and Royce come into this true to the characters longtime readers are familiar with. And they also learn some things about the world around them, people in it, and about themselves. Both have come a long way in this story alone.

It's a great entry in the overall series, and one that I'll be sure to read again when it's released in its final polished versions.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: Lobo Vol. 1: Targets

Lobo Vol. 1: Targets Lobo Vol. 1: Targets by Cullen Bunn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a free eARC copy of this graphic novel from the publisher through NetGalley.

Well then. All said, I'm ummm...well. Fragged.

If I had not been a fan of the imposter "old" Lobo, I probably would have enjoyed this more. The writing was pretty good, and the art was as well. The character of Lobo was good, if not totally original. Badass assassin with a code that always completes his contracts and is cold-hearted. The storyline was interesting enough as he plucks his way around trying to find all the targets that he's been hired to kill.

But then again, I used to read Lobo. The Main Man was a complete Bastich, and didn't care who got in his way. He was completely psychotic, riding his space-chopper around and fraggin' anyone that got in his way. Always with a clever line of pure badassery. He looked like a mix up of King Diamond, Sons of Anarchy, and the Insane Clown Posse, and you did not want to get in his way. The dude even messed up Superman at least once.

So now we find out that wasn't the "real" Lobo, and that he was dispatched by this new pretty boy with angst? Pffft. Whatever.

I liked this story as it was written and drawn. But it could have been so much more with the original writers and the actual Lobo in the lead role.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: Pure Insanity

Pure Insanity Pure Insanity by Sean Ryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a free eARC copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher.

3.5 stars. I enjoyed this pretty well, though it felt like the beginning of something (which it was) that never really got off the ground like it has the potential to. Well, it gathers the first 8 issues of the New Suicide Squad, and perhaps it is with further issues that I would really become invested in the story a bit better.

Now, I should note that this is my first reading experience with the Suicide Squad. It does seem like a decent entry point, moving forward. What with the New 52 DC reboot and the reforming of the Squad itself. But my concern at this point is the suddenly shifting lineup change. Is this normal and expected of Suicide Squad? I know it happens with many of the super teams, and with this one being made up of criminals I imagine it might happen more often. It just seemed like a certain lineup was advertised and it was of a different makeup before this reader was fully on board with the idea. This isn't a criticism, but an observation as to perhaps why I didn't give it more starage.

But all in all, I enjoyed the artwork and the story itself. The characters were interesting as well as being somewhat bastards. I'd definitely look into continuing this story.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Review - Batman: Arkham Knight Volume I

Batman: Arkham Knight Vol. 1Batman: Arkham Knight Vol. 1 by Peter J. Tomasi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a free eARC copy of this graphic novel through NetGalley.

Well, this was a decent Batman story, and a good way to kill a couple of dead hours this afternoon. I guess it's supposed to tie in to the new Arkham Knight game, but since I don't play these things, I missed any direct references to that. Still, a Batman story. Not as good as some of the Scott Snyder penned recent Batman titles that I've read, but worth the time nonetheless.

I did struggle with some of the assumed Bat-lore knowledge one would expect from a hard core fan. But then, I'm only a passing fan of the Bat at best. Once more, Snyder handled this better in his works.

Am I interested in continuing? Probably not, unless I got another free copy.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Review: Fool's Fate

Fool's Fate (Tawny Man, #3)Fool's Fate by Robin Hobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What I've come to expect from a Robin Hobb book. That is, it has about twice as many pages as the plot should support, but that's alright. Because the remaining text is filled with essential character development, which is Hobb's greatest strength as a writer. So in that sense, it's a typical book from her. But on the other hand, it's very much its own story, or sub-story of the greater tale of FitzChivalry Farseer.

I won't really comment much on how it wraps up this trilogy, for fear of spoilers, but I will say that it fit.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Review: Slow Bullets

Slow BulletsSlow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher.

Alastair Reynolds has easily become one of those authors that I've taken an interest in, ever since I read Revelation Space last year. That was a novel that I like quite a bit, even though many parts of it were above my comprehension level. So even though I enjoyed it overall, I became leery of reading more.

Then I saw that this was coming out, a short novel with an interesting premise: a soldier dealing with the aftermath of a war that's just had a ceasefire and not everyone's been told. I was quickly engaged with Scur and her story, and better yet, I understood what was happening! This was some seriously cool space opera as it should be.

I like my science fiction to be heavy on the fiction, with a dash of the science. Or even more than a dash if it's told in such a way that I can follow it. That's what this was, and I would definitely grab up more stories/novels occurring in Scur's universe.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Review: Golden Fool

The Golden Fool (Tawny Man, #2)The Golden Fool by Robin Hobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here we are again, the middle book of a Hobb trilogy. I really think she hits her stride in these second books. The pace has built up a bit from the first, and it sets up the third one nicely.

There were a couple of emotional scenes in this that are certainly appreciated by a long time reader of this overall series. I won't go into it, but they alone made this book something special. I hope they are a good preview of what's to come in Book #3, which I'll be starting soon.

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Review: Pines

Pines (Wayward Pines, #1)Pines by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this ebook from the publisher through NetGalley.

3.5 stars, for being a great page-turner. The characters and plot lines were solid, but nothing that grabbed me and wouldn't let go in and of themselves. The pacing was excellent, and I do like where Crouch seemed to be going. The end game was worth a half star all on its own; where there wasn't a lot of surprise along the way, there was as it wrapped up. I really didn't see that coming.

I'll be continuing with this series, for sure. And I'll be watching it on Fox in a couple of weeks.

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Review: Fool's Errand

Fool's Errand
Fool's Errand by Robin Hobb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I see that I still haven't reviewed this, and I'm already 40% into the second one.

Well, there isn't a lot to say, really. If you like Hobb and her previous two trilogies about the Elderlings Realm, you'll want to continue. Here, we're back to the first person narrative of Fitz himself, and it's great to catch up with old friends.

The story itself is decent enough, but what struck me about this particular book was the slow build. True, this is a staple of long Hobb books, but here is where it really works. Not a lot happens for a long time, but with Hobb, that's ok. She doesn't make it boring, but rather gets us into a comfort zone from which we can branch when it is time for stuff to happen.

So there, not a lot to review. Just enough to say yeah, I liked this and I'm moving right into the next one...

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Review: The Windup Girl

The Windup GirlThe Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wait, what? What did I just read?

Yeah, something like that, Captain.

I tell you what though. I liked it! If this was a series, I'd read more of them. Yeah, if you write a Malazan Book of the Windup, I'll damn read it.

Because there was so much I didn't understand. There was so much I scratched my head about and wondered WHY?! But I was engrossed. The future Thai Kingdom depicted here and the world it's set in are brilliant. I felt like I was there. I didn't always get what was coming, but if you saw someone with a white shirt, you want to blend into the crowd. I wonder though, what those white shirts were made of. I mean, as hot and sticky and humid as it was, how did they stay white?

Mr. Bacigalupi is definitely on my radar.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Review: Clash of Eagles

Clash of EaglesClash of Eagles by Alan Smale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

What a satisfying read. Imagine an alternate history where Rome didn't fall, and was responsible for leading the age of discovery into the New World. How would their early encounters with the Native Americans go?

This book turned out to be much more than a "what if?" situation, developing into a richly constructed historical fantasy. While the author mentions it as the first of a trilogy, the story here is pretty much self-contained. Still, I'll definitely want to read more!

The pacing is good, though a bit on the slow side. It feels alright though, as it takes time to properly world-build and to get the key players into place. Smale does a good job keeping it interesting even at points where he has to make brief info-dumps. It's a little a time, and is interspersed with bits of humor and action scenes.

And the battles! Oh yes, Bernard Cornwell take note. Alan Smale can stir the dust and kick up a shit storm with his epic battles. In many books, these grow tedious, but here they managed to hold my interest all the way though. Easy to visualize, you feel like you're right there in the heart of it all.

But really, this book is more than the sum of its parts. It's more than a Native American story with Romans dumped in for flavoring. It's more than cool battle sequences. I think what we'll see in the final product won't be really known until the trilogy is complete. I for one am looking forward to the journey.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Review: Once Upon an Ever After

Once Upon an Ever After (Once Upon a Road Trip, #2)Once Upon an Ever After by Angela N. Blount
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here is the disclaimer that Angela N. Blount is a friend of mine on Goodreads, and that she provided me a free ecopy of this book.

I will say that I like the author's writing style quite a bit, and not just because she is my friend. Though after reading these, I would want her to be my friend if she wasn't already - the autobigraphical character in her stories really rings true, someone that I would like to know. As such, it's a character driven story and Blount's skill at bringing out her characters echoes heavily.

This was a shorter book than its predecessor, Once Upon a Road Trip. It was longer than an epilogue but shorter than a sequel of equal importance to the original story would have been. It completes the story (for now) begun in the first book and is good closure after reading that.

That said, it's not quite as engaging for me as the first book. It's just as well-written, but I think the style of third person interspersed with diary entries worked so well in that first book. This one is told entirely as a series of journal entries. It works too, just doesn't have that same movie-quality road tripping ambience. This was a little more of a romance story, where the first felt like a life-story/coming of age adventure. All of this isn't criticism, just insight as to whioh book I prefer as a reader.

Still, this was a satisfying read at a good length - not too long, and not too brief. Once more I'm impressed with Angela Blount's easy flowing, personal narrative voice. I'll be looking forward to more of her work in the future.

Angela, thank you once more for the ebook copies, and for sharing such personal moments with your readers.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: Dragons at Crumbling Castle (RIP Sir Terry Pratchett)

Dragons at Crumbling CastleDragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a fun little collection of early Pratchett stories for kids all ages. They were told as if they were children's tales, but there is always an undercurrent of humor that's a treat to adults. Kinda like his later work in that respect.

This book was chosen as a March 2015 book selection in a Good Reads group that I'm in, Flights of Fantasy. Little did we know when we nominated it and voted it in, that it would appear on our group shelf in the very month that Sir Pratchett passed away.

That's a sad coincidence, but at the same time I'm glad we had the book on hand to read. Those of us that have read Sir Terry and those that haven't but have felt his influence can take this moment to celebrate his life, and his body of work. I've also been working on some of the early Discworld novels, and this was a nice sidetrack in that pursuit.

So delve in here and meet the Carpet People, and the citizens of Blackbury. We also meet some dragons, and we learn how Father Christmas sucks at other jobs. It's lots of fun, without being too heavy (even rhinos can fly, it seems).

Shortly after Sir Terry passed, I saw this tweet that I loved, and I feel that it fits this book:

"Pratchett wrote incredibly smart, insightful, and true things about what it means to be human. And then he added jokes and dragons." Chris Farnsworth @chrisfarnsworth

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Review: Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here's a well crafted mystery/thriller in the vein of Gillian Flynn, only not as sinister. The plus is that while it's not as nail biting as Flynn's, the characters are more likable. On its own, it's a pretty good mystery with some nice twists and turns, just paced a little slowly.

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Review: Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi

Heir to the Jedi: Star WarsHeir to the Jedi: Star Wars by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

3.5 stars.

To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed for the majority of the time I spent reading this book. Once again, a big name author was chosen to write a Star Wars novel, and like with the previous few, it didn't capture my attention the way I'd hoped. It was a good story, but not real exciting or engaging.

But then the last couple of chapters brought it home and was enough to bump my rating by a half star. I finished the book feeling satisfied with the read, though not compelled to run out and buy books by Kevin Hearne or other Star Wars novels.

This book does take an interesting perspective that I haven't seen in the others I've read. That is, a first person narrative from the perspective of Luke Skywalker. It was intriguing to get into his head and see how he felt about events in the Star Wars: A New Hope film, after which this novel is set. It was also interesting to watch him deal with his powers with the Force, and his role in the Rebellion. The final climactic scene really delved into his mind, and his heart. It was a bit gut-wrenching, and very significant to a reader that is familiar with all of the films (so far). The fact that Skywalker himself doesn't catch this significance is great. He will later, of course. But for now the author was skillful at keeping his insights limited to the character as he was before The Empire Strikes Back.

So all in all, I'd recommend this book to the Star Wars fan. I wouldn't say it ranks among the best of the EU novels, but it's a decent read on its own.

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: The Gun Fight

The Gun Fight
The Gun Fight by Richard Matheson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Matheson was amazing, that's all there is to it. He was brilliant at capturing the human spirit and conveying it to readers, regardless to what genre he was writing in. This Western is no exception.

It really deserves more, but I'm still feeling sucker punched from the amount of emotion Matheson put into this.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: Sourcery

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars.

I hate rating this low, but I have to be honest. I spent more time counting off pages to completion than I did on reading it.

There were some really funny parts and snippets of awesome. But in the end, it just wasn't connecting with me. It took me a month to finish. Ugh...

Still, I certainly didn't dislike it. I'm just hoping to get more hooked on the series before too much longer....

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Review: The Price of Spring

The Price of SpringThe Price of Spring by Daniel Abraham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, great ending to a great series. This one was almost a letdown after the last two, but it turned into more of a slow build with yet another great payoff. That's a trademark of this series, the endings.

I'm a bit sad that I've finished this. While I didn't ever love it enough to quite give it 5-stars, it came damn close, and it held that 4-4.5 star range beginning to end. The characters were a strong point too, many of them coming to full resolution here in the last book.

It really makes me look forward to Abraham's other fantasy series that starts with The Dragon's Path, as well as getting back with the series he co-authored as James S.A. Corey, The Expanse.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: Once Upon a Road Trip

Once Upon a Road Trip (Once Upon a Road Trip, #1)Once Upon a Road Trip by Angela N. Blount
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: The author is a friend of mine on Good Reads, and she provided me with a copy of her book for review.

That said, I'm impressed. Told mostly in third person with a splattering of short journal entries, this story is a memoir disguised as a fictional work. It's a combination of travel memoir, and a record of personal growth.

Set a few months after 9/11, the story perfectly captures life with the technology out there at that time. Cell phones existed, but we didn't all have them yet. Computers and the internet were common, but not as advanced as they are now. Pay phones still existed. Whoah - wow. Paper maps. And calling cards.

These things made me smile, because I remember those years fondly. While this was "Angeli's" story, parts of it rang very close to my own memory. Yes, I spent quite a bit of time during the late '90s and early '00s traveling by car. And stopping to use pay phones. I even hit some of the same areas that Angie described in her book.

Some of the background stuff too, that started Angie on her journey. Online social and writing groups that led to meeting some in my journeys, yeah. As I read this book and was totally engaged in Angie's story, some old memories floated to the surface. Good, bad, ugly. And hey, I even thought as I read that Angie should have stopped in South Georgia for a spell :)

Personal memories and parallels to the story aside, Angela Blount can seriously write. This story was engaging from the beginning and remained that way all the way to the end. She conveyed not only what happened, but the emotional ups and downs along the way. The personal touch and how well it rung true for me makes it easy to round up to 5-stars, but the story itself is a solid, thoroughly enjoyable read all on its own.

Angela, thank you for offering me the opportunity to read your story, and for sharing something so personal in such a beautiful way with all of your readers.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review: Half the World

Half the World (Shattered Sea, #2)Half the World by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an ARC copy of this book from Good Reads in the First Reads giveaway program. I also received an eARC from NetGalley.

The middle book of a trilogy that doesn't have that middle book drag we often see. No, this was an improvement to the first book, and at the same time building for the climax in the third.

Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say the man can weave a good yarn. If any hesitate to pick up this Shattered Sea trilogy based on word that it's "YA" and toned down from his usual Lord Grimdark fare, hesitate no more! This works as YA, while at the same time doesn't feel like its trying to be YA. Abercrombie pulls no punches. There is plenty of grit and dirt and blood and wicked tough bastards and badass women to go around. This is a story where they're not afraid to blow snot right on the sand in front of Mother War and Father Peace and everyone else.

And that ending? Freakin' wow. I really hadn't plan to finish this book tonight. But oh, Abercrombie snuck up on me and smacked me upside the head with some WTF and oh shit moments, and I couldn't look away.

Damn, and now I want to read the third book. Like immediately.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Review: Little Fuzzy

Little Fuzzy [Unabridged]Little Fuzzy [Unabridged] by H. Beam Piper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a decent little story that I probably wouldn't have ever read if not for John Scalzi's reboot, Fuzzy Nation. That book was just so awesome, I had to see about the source material.

Also, this audiobook was a surprise attachment to the Fuzzy Nation audiobook, so it was right there. Just press "play".

That said, this wasn't as entertaining. It was good, it's just that Fuzzy Nation was incredible. Scalzi did some things that were improvements on the original story. That said, there wouldn't even be a Fuzzy Nation if it weren't for this book.

On the audio, well. The narrator also wasn't as good as Wil Wheaton. This guy made Jack Holloway's interactions with Little Fuzzy sound like episodes of Mickey Mouse's Playhouse. Only without the "Hot Dog Song". (Don't judge me, my 1 year old grandson lives with us).

But yeah, without this, there would be no Fuzzy Nation. And just mayhap, there would have been no Ewoks either.

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Review: Fuzzy Nation

Fuzzy Nation
Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How is it that this book has been out for 4 years and I'm just now reading it? I remember when it came out thinking that it was an homage to H. Beam Piper's novel (which it is), and that I'd need to have read that one to get this one. That's not the case; after doing a little more looking, I saw that this is a reboot of the original, rather than a sequel. Scalzi explains all of this very well in his introduction.

Well, today was a good day for it, so that worked out; I needed a good distraction. This audio reading was perfect for that, with Wil Wheaton at the helm.

While I've read several John Scalzi short stories over the last few years, this was the first novel I've tried. Well, if that's any indication of what I've been missing, I'll be looking into more of his work very soon.

I loved the last sentence (before the epilogue). Perfect.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review: An Autumn War

An Autumn War
An Autumn War by Daniel Abraham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was brilliant at times. At others, it dragged a little. But even when it was moving slowly, I enjoyed it.

I'm really starting to like some of these characters. New ones, and the ones carried over from the earlier books. Abraham writes them so well that love or hate them, they're worth reading about. Or listening, in this case. The audiobook performance of Neil Shah was perfect for this book. At first I wasn't sure at all I liked him, but after a couple of chapters his voice molded to the story. And his character voices are perfect.

I really need to see where this series will go from here. One more book and it's over. The way this one has built up to it, I think I'm in for a real treat.

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review: Pandora's Star

Pandora's Star (Commonwealth Saga #1)Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well then. I hope that book reviews don't need to be a length that's proportional to the size of the book being reviewed. Actually, I can safely say that this one definitely won't be.

Damn, that was a big tome. And as much as I like John Lee, I need a new reader in my next book. Between this and Revelation Space, I've heard John Lee's voice more this year than any member of my family's voice. My wife does say I can tune her out, and unfortunately I think this happened with Mr. Lee as well for large parts of the book.

There were great parts, and great characters. Then there were long periods of slog and yawn. What's bad is that my brain had zoned out and gone elsewhere during some of the longer slogs, and ended up missing some of the good parts. I can't say how many times I'd regain focus and be like "when did they switch to that character?"

I feel like I need some CliffNotes. There were things I wanted to know more about, but missed the connections. I mean, sometimes I'd be listening and be thinking, "just who is this character?" even though I knew I'd read about them earlier. It just had been so long....

And this is only half the story. Ouch. I definitely need some CliffNotes before I tackle Judas Unchained. Probably some NoDoze too.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: Rhune

Rhune by Michael J. Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My review and rating are based on the 2nd beta version of this book; the final published edition will likely be changed a bit.

But not as much as you might think. While it will need some tweaking to give it a more polished story, this book is pretty awesome as it is now. I've been a fan of Michael J. Sullivan for a few years now, and he has never disappointed. Fans of his Riyria works will be on this book like a fat kid on a glazed donut.

What happens in this book? I won't tell. One, I don't reveal spoilers. Two, this won't be released for over a year by the time it gets the full publishing treatment - things about it could change. And third, you need to read it for yourself. Don't worry; when the final version makes it to print (and ebook, and audiobook), I'll be among the first out there purchasing a copy. And I'll read it again, happily. I'm anxious to see an "improved" final cut of this work.

And anxious for Book 2, for that matter.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones

The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones
The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. This was better than expected, even with the hype. At first I hesitated to buy it. I mean, why do I want to sink this kind of money into one of GRRM's distractions? All that does is encourage him to work on stuff that isn't The Winds of Winter. Right?

That, and I'm not even sure how much of this he wrote. He has endorsed it heavily, and I know that he's very protective of his material. So that kind of won me over, and I added it to my Christmas list. At least it isn't a snoozefest of an anthology, right?

Right. This book is brilliant. I wouldn't even call it something to tide me over while I wait on TWOW. It's a great work on its own. This is a history textbook that is way more interesting than anything I had in school. And the artwork is breathtaking - it's worth picking up this book just for the pictures, even if you never read a word of it.

That said, the "story" here is wonderful. We go all the way back to the Dawn Age and it comes full circle back to the time just after Robert's Rebellion. (There are a few spoilers of the "present" narrative of the series, but not many). All those places and peoples and old events that get quick mention in the series, they're here. And in the context that brings it all to life.

It made me want to read the series again. Now. And it's only been a little more than a year since the last time I read it. But I want to go find all those Easter eggs and see how they relate to the main story. Armed with the knowledge of old history, this could be fun.

I will say that my rating dropped slightly by then end as the last few chapters were pretty dry. It was still interesting, but lost a lot of the richness that made the first 2/3 of the book so great.

Favorite parts? The histories of the Targaryen kings. By far the best section of the book, it was worth the read all by itself.

What's missing? Well, I would have liked a few more maps. I loved the maps that depicted the indiviual Westeros "kingdoms", but would have liked to see more of the areas of Essos and a world view.

There were also a few sections of the history with noticeable gaps: the Tragedy of Summerhall, the final story of Rhaenys Targaryen, and the cities of Slaver's Bay. I did feel that these were intentional, maybe a clue that GRRM doesn't want those stories told just yet. That makes sense with Summerhall, as I could see that being told at the end of the Dunk & Egg stories. But we'll see. I'm sure there's a reason for it.....

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Review: Consider Phlebas

Consider PhlebasConsider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To be honest, I had mixed feelings here. At times I was really into it, but during others I felt it dragged on. I'd say the good outweighed the bad, however. So I'll round up my 3.5 stars to a 4 rating.

I really liked the characters, and I loved Banks's development. I also enjoyed the universe building that this first Culture novel has. I'm definitely curious enough to look into reading others (I've actually read Player of Games, but it's been 20 years and I don't remember much).

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: Retribution Falls

Retribution Falls
Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this, and though I've been seeing great things said about it for a long time, I just now got to it. Well, I'm glad I did. I'm good and thoroughly hooked, and I'll be picking up more books in this series.

Cross [b:The Winds of Khalakovo|9601072|The Winds of Khalakovo (Lays of Anuskaya, #1)|Bradley P. Beaulieu||14488183] with Firefly and you might have a basic idea of what to expect. Or not. It's kinda its own thing too.


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