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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