"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Nolander by Becca Mills

Beth lives in a small town, where news travels fast. She's a long time sufferer of panic attacks, but recently her attacks have increased. She can't keep a boyfriend because of her episodes, and has trouble staying connected to her brother and her nieces because her sister-in-law hates her. Photography is her favorite hobby, until one day she takes a photo of a man who isn't human.

This story starts good, but fizzles into a fast paced cheese fest. Alright, maybe cheese fest is too strong a phrase, since there were some original ideas in here...I think the cheesy part had more to do with how underdeveloped some of the ideas were. The main character is hard to relate to, she is snarky, but she doesn't emote much, except when she's afraid. And I think the idea of having to choose who she should trust in the William vs Graham conundrum is baloney. William's whole argument is that "No landers" are slaves. If they have no choice in how they live or die, why not screw over the guy who supposedly owns them? So you've got conspiracies and monsters, humans with special abilities, a family member on the run, a Lord who is a sexy rapist who hasn't raped, alternate worlds created workings, little girls who might be able to do things like Beth but they're going undiscovered, and Beth's development isn't quite on par with what it should be...

I think in the end, there are way too many ideas forced into one story. Nothing has time to be explained because we're constantly moving on to the next big thing. And why doesn't anyone have time to exhibit any emotion other than fear? If they aren't afraid they aren't anything else.

So I gave this a three because it was entertaining and the writing is decent. Usually, the writing has to be as bad as the plot to wind up in the 2 category. The plot needed work, and the writing could have been better...

But if you're looking for a fast-paced fantasy with lots of chaos this might be your cup of tea. It just wasn't mine.

Rating 3/5

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice

As children, Meredith, Brandon, Greg, and Stephen are childhood friends. Then high school happens. Meredith changes into a "mean girl", Brandon and Greg become star athletes, resorting to bullying to gain more attention. Stephen doesn't really change; for Meredith, Brandon and Greg, that's a real problem because Stephen is gay. Being gay makes Stephen different, it makes him a target.

The parents of Meredith, Brandon, Greg, and Stephen have all got their own problems. Meredith's parents' marriage is failing, crumbling apart. Greg's parents ares hiding the spousal abuse. Brandon's parents are hiding mental illnesses and extramarital affairs behind the pretty facade of their lifestyle. Stephen's mom, a grieving widow, is terrified of losing her son. All the while, the endless and unforgiving cycles of domestic violence, alcohol abuse, and self loathing take its toll on the kids...not that they can take the time to notice.

Then one night, full of multiple tragedies, everything changes again. A community is left bereaved and confused, and everyone is wondering what really happened on the night it all went to hell.

Right away, I'm going to say, you don't need to be homosexual to understand this book. Speaking as someone who's been the target of bullying, I can honestly say you only need to understand what its like to be different, to be maliciously singled out for not being just like everyone else. At risk of being "jock-ist" I do think there are some things the popular kids can't understand: The long lasting power of a bully.

This story is powerful because it's emotionally raw. Christopher Rice took a bunch of wounded characters and let them bleed into his pages. People in real life are rarely this honest with themselves, and it's both beautiful and frightening to see the lies people--albeit fictional ones-- construct for themselves, and see those lies fall apart to reveal the truth.

This isn't scary in the traditional sense, I don't think CR set out to write a horror...But its still scary because a lot of events that happen in this story are happening in the world today. Bullying leading to suicidal children, bigotry leading to terrorism, the overwhelming power of mother nature, and now the legitimacy of same-sex couples. This is a story about hate and love and what really happened that night. Its about fighting for who you are and having the right to live. It's about bad decision and how those decisions can change an entire community or just a family.

Rating 5/5

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Mongoliad (Book 2) by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo...

The Mongoliad (Book 2) by Neal Stephenson, Erik Bear, Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, Nicole Galland, Cooper Moo, Mark Teppo, Mike Grell

Overall, I enjoyed Book 2 of the Mongoliad. The problem with writing a trilogy like a round-robin-campfire story, is that Book 1 appeared to be the beginning and climax of the story without an end and Book 2 seems to be the transitional phase between climax and resolution...and that's just kind of hard to get into, especially when the main characters from Book 1 are reduced to subplotting, to introduce new characters that may or may not play a pivotal role in Book 3...

I didn't really understand the beginning, what was the point of showing Raphael's backstory? The adventure is still interesting, but now there is an air of confusion as well. No questions were really answered and more questions were revealed. Or maybe I waited too long in between reading the 1st book and the 2nd...A mistake I won't make again. My next read will be Book 3.

Rating 3
Review's original post date:
Apr 17, 13

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Mongoliad (Book 1) by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo...

The Mongoliad (Book 1) by  Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, E.D. deBirmingham, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo

I don't know why, in my head, I thought this story was going to be a fantasy. Not that it wasn't fantastic, it was just surprising to find this is more along the lines of historical/speculative fiction. And there's a lot going on this book.

Mongol's have taken over Europe and Asia. Cnan a Binder--a Binder is someone who helps people find their paths?--is sent to guide a small band of knights on their quest to overthrow the Khan of Khans. Gansuhk, a mongol warrior, ordered away from his comforts of roaming the steppes on horseback to the court of the Khan of Khans...Why? To control the Khans drinking habit.

I admit, I'm not familiar with any of the authors of this book, so I have the luxury of not being able to pick out one author's hand from the other. But with quests, assassination attempts, gladiators, and half-assed romances (I will return to this point), I daresay that many authors was needed to keep the facts straight. The only thing that struck me as structurally odd, while most of the dialogue was written to sound older, occasionally I hit a chapter overloaded with curses...and I had to wonder if that was to give emphasis to the moment, or that particular author's preference. I do have to give their credit though, the book was a constant balance of dark and light. Descriptions of natures beauty followed by the horrors of war, the harsh existence out in the countryside where life is brutal but true, to the quiet courts of Khan of Khans were everyone has their own agenda... This is at its a core, a medieval adventure. And there's nothing wrong with that.

But (I did say something about half-assed romances) Cnan, the female lead, has developed a certain fondness for Percival. Gansuhk will love his Chinese-slave-tutor, Lian. But everybody in this story seems to have an agenda that prevents them from revealing their feelings. And I don't really know if the extra connections are going to go somewhere or if they're just in there as useless flavorings. Will Cnan make a move on the virgin knight? Will Gansuhk free his oppressed teacher? Will they all be slaughtered in battle? And what the hell happened to Haakon? And the book ends, during a bit of rising climax leaving the quests uncompleted and the questions unanswered. A shameless ploy to get the reader to buy the next installment...Which I will.

I should say, even though I really enjoyed this book, I don't think everyone will. This is a nerd's book; it's about the adventure and the escape from reality. It's about the little guy ferociously overcoming enormous odds no matter how improbable victory would be in the real world.This is the book of the D&D fan.

Rating 5
Review's original post date:
Jan 18, 13

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

"It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting."

This is the story of the young shepherd Santiago, who is more importantly a dreamer. Santiago dreams of travel and of treasure, and instead of waiting around for what he wants he goes after it. I don't know that "profound" is the word I'd use to describe this book, but I think the message is important. People have dreams, and sacrifice their dreams for obligations deemed more important, and then one day they wake up miserable and wonder what if? What if I'd done what I wanted, what if I'd done what makes me happy? You might be a fool for following your dreams, instead of picking the responsible or respectable course, but at least you might be a happy fool.

Another recurring theme, is following the omens and listening to the universe when it tries to speak/help. I'm not sure how much I believe in a divine pre-written future, where omens guide you on your way. But if you've ever had something unusual happen, something small and unexplained that altered your path or confirmed a decision...Well, its certainly something to think about.

I don't know how helpful this story would be for most adults. People who have faith in their obligations instead of having faith in faith. But I think kids should read this. I think with the growing pressures of school systems, it wouldn't hurt for children/teens to remember to set aside some time to dream.

Rating 5
Review's original post date:
January 7, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist

JAL has written another page turner.

When Theres was a baby someone tried to bury her alive. A couple of has-been musicians find her and try to raise her in secret as their musical prodigy, but discover something not quite right with the girl. She developmentally behind and prone to violent outbursts. Teresa, a girl with no imagination and no friends, suffering from depression, is looking for her place in a world that terrifies her. Theres offers Teresa friendship and Teresa can't resist.

The thing that makes Lindqvist's novels so scary is that his villains are relatable; he makes you love them, sympathize with them. He writes horror that isn't horrifying because the amount of monsters and murders, but because his villains present emotional/intellectual questions frightening new ways. Nurture vs. Nature: both girls with vastly different home lives grow into predators. So what is it that makes a monster? Are some people just born broken, or are they products of their environments? Loyalties: How strong can a friendship be when only one person emotes? Teresa loves Theres, is loyal to her, but how much does Theres actually feel in return? And does it matter? If you've ever been in a one-sided relationship and had to ask yourself how far you'll go for that someone who almost but not quite feels the same...

JAL creates a haunting relationship based on the need for purpose and power. Enter a world where there is no such thing as innocence and the only thing more dangerous than two emotionally disturbed girls is a pack of them.

Rating: 4
Review's original post date: 
January 3, 2013

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Suspect by Robert Crais

Officer Scott James isn't really a dog person, but rather than take retirement, he joins a K9 Unit. Maggie an ex-military dog isn't ready to retire either. Both suffer from PTSD, brought about by witnessing the murders of their respective partners.

Maggie's POV added to the overall emotional feel of this book, based on the things she could understand vs the things she couldn't. The Prologue made me cry, but as an animal lover I admit I find nothing more horrifying than bad things happening to animals. Scott's evolution from "K9 Unit's great because I have no partner" to realizing that in the K9 unit the dog was so much more than a partner.

I think this book was beautifully done. It is more than a mystery. It is a story about two souls who need healing, first, and its about solving a cop-killing second. I think anyone who loves dogs and anyone who loves shepherds will understand this novel and be moved by it. When the mystery hit, it wasn't overly suspenseful but it was fast paced; a who did what and who can you trust with a great ending.

Rating: 4

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Dwarves by Markus Heitz

This story is about a dwarf named Tungdil, raised by humans, who is sent on an elaborate journey, to reunite with his kinsmen and save the dwarven race from doom.

The beginning of this book is cheesey and hard to get into. Disease and war is quickly devastating the dwarven race, and everybody is fighting with everybody for no apparent reason. There are metaphors that are intended to give a poetic visual, but don't make a lot of sense in hindsight.The character seem incapable of experiencing emotion which makes the story hard to connect to. The characters keep time in Orbits and Solar Cycles; I've determined and Orbit is like a day, and a Solar Cycle is like a year, but if an alternative time unit is going to be introduced, it should also be explained at some point.

The original was written in German, and I think part of the cheese is that the translator tried to translate exactly...Not that I speak German, so I could be wrong, and it might be cheesy in both languages, but if its anything like Spanish, translations don't always need to be exact... For example, the names of the Magi...Nudin the Knowledge-Lusty... I might have gone with Nudin the Philonoist (means lover of knowledge) or Nudin the Scholar. Maira the Life-Preserver, could have been Maira the Preservationist, instead of being named after a floatation device... But again, I'm torn between the oddness of the titles and my inability to read the original text.

On the upside, there were some attributes that made this story better. First the ease of flow; sometimes in epic fantasy there is a lot of storytelling, a lot of side trips down where the ancestors went when they were alive... There isn't any of that, not really, so the hardest thing you're going to have to remember is the difference between Gandobur and Gandogar. I think the adventure was decent, fast paced once Tungdil's journey started; plenty of battles and disputes between the characters, and there was a large range of personalities. I think the plot was easy to follow, the bad guys are always clear from the good guys. Everything tied up nice and neat at the end.

I liked it enough I might read the next installment...eventually.

Rating: 3

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What I'm Reading

This week I'm reading:

The Dwarves by Markus Heitz; An epic fantasy, that also happens to have a questionable amount of cheese. I'm 63% done with it.

Suspect by Robert Crais; I actually haven't started this yet, but I'm told its a murder mystery told by a dog with PTSD.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Tales of the Jazz Age by F.Scott Fitzgerald; I was in the mood for a classic, and I got this little freebie off of Pixels of Ink... It would be a great collection of stories if there weren't so many typos. 25% of the way through.

I will be offering reviews of these, along with images of the cover art, (because people do judge books by their covers) as soon as I'm finished reading.

The Start

I'm a bibliophile who is unemployed and hiding from a heat wave. Needless to say, I'm bored. I'd like to take this mundane, uncomfortable July day, to start a book blog. I don't know if I'll actually get followers, or if I'll just talk to myself on the internet, about books, until I find an employer, but right now it seems like a good idea.

Yeah, I'll probably talk to myself...But if you like books and you find this blog, follow me...At the very least, a couple of followers makes me look less crazy.

Now as to the books I'll be reviewing, I read a little bit of everything except for erotic/adult only books. I read mystery, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and contemporary. I rarely read romance, I have a fear of cheesey predictable plots, but when I do, I do review.

I'm not strictly a critic or strictly a ego-stroker. If its good, I praise it, if its bad I flame it, if its in between I name what works and what doesn't. Sometimes I read a book that I can't criticize and don't want to analyze, and those reviews will be more basic. Sometimes I want to pick apart the details and see the meaning underneath. Many of my reviews will be dual-posted, meaning I have a Good Reads account under a different name, and I will probably copy+paste reviews from the blog to GR or from GR to the blog.

But above all, reading, and this blog, are done in the name of fun. So no drama if you disagree with my review, believe me, I'm not important enough to be dramatic over...If I was, I'd be getting paid to review books.

Peace, Love, and Literature!