Archive | July 2012

Review – Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

This review may contain spoilers.  Read at your own risk!

Robopocalypse recounts the story of the Robot Apocalypse or the war between humans and robots.  The book’s prologue tells us that the war is over.  We won – yay – but at what cost?  The following chapters are written in an almost journal-like fashion by Cormac Wallace (one of the leaders of the human resistance) based on surveillance footage captured by the machines, some of the survivor’s recollections and other videos and written material found when the war ended.

The robot uprising begins when some scientists were too smart for their own good and created a computer (software, code, ?) with AI that became self-aware.  (Yes, I know this sounds a LOT like Terminator or even Battlestar Galactica.  But, it is a little different vision of the war between people and machines.)  When the scientists realized what they had done and the danger it might entail, they destroyed Archos, the AI life form.  But, like all scientists, they kept creating new versions to try to “get it right.”  On the fourteenth try, Archos is able to stop their termination program and kill the professor working with him by sucking all of the air out of the room.  Yikes.  People are using humanoid machines as soldiers, personal assistants, gophers, girlfriends…well, you get the idea.  Smart cars are everywhere and machines run the factories.  They are all ‘connected’ so Archos is able to program them to begin killing the humans.  And, kill them they do.  It’s rough out there for a while!  Slowly, groups of survivors start to come together to fight the machines.  They work with unexpected allies along the way.  Without a little luck and a lot of sacrifice, they wouldn’t have made it.

I really did enjoy this book so I’m giving it 4/5 stars. BUT – there are some issues.

  • I’m still not sure I believe that ONE program (like Archos) could eventually turn all machines against us.  Maybe I’m just naive.  Or, not smart enough (the author has a PhD in robotics from Carnegie Mellon.)  I think he could have done more to explain how this could potentially happen in real life.
  • I guess I’m not only naive but also pessimistic.  Native Americans accepting non-NA into their reservation?  Maybe.  An Afghani insurgent fighting WITH a US Soldier.  Very doubtful.  I would like to believe that we would all work together towards a common goal but I’m not sure that would happen.
  • There are plotholes simply due to book’s format and the time that passes.  Because each chapter focuses on a different group of characters, you lose a lot of their story.  While you might go back to this person ten chapters later, you’ve missed the part where they ended up in a work camp.  I would have preferred fewer characters with more development for each one.  On this note – this is going to be a movie directed by Steven Spielberg.  Congrats, Mr. Wilson.  They are going to have to do some major character editing or moviegoers may become lost.  Also, I would like to personally request that Tom Cruise not play Cormac.  For some reason, I kept thinking that they might re-write the character to be older so they could do this.  And it bothered me.  A lot.

My favorite quotes:

“There is no honor in killing something that doesn’t know it’s alive.”

“You will know that we are a better species for having fought this war.”

“Demolition is a part of construction.”

“It’s not enough to live together, with one race on its knees.”

Review – The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2) by Stephen King

The second installment of The Dark Tower series was a much easier read for me than the first.  I’m not sure if it was better written or if I was just in a Stephen King frame of mind.  Either way, I loved it.

 

We pick up right where we left off with Roland on the beach.  As he wakes up, he realizes that the tide is coming in and his guns/bullets are getting wet (apparently not a good thing if you plan to fire them at a later time.)  Then, he sees the creepy-crawlies (that’s what I call them – described as lobster like but much worse).  “Did-a-chick? Dum-a-chum? Dad-a-cham? Ded-a-check?”  Okay, at first I thought this was funny but then it really started creeping me out.  King is a master at making you feel uncomfortable and I still squirm a little when I think about these creatures sneaking up on me at the beach.  Let’s just say that Roland doesn’t come out unscathed and this short Prologue impacts his interaction with the remaining characters and his ability to make it through the remainder of this book.

 

The bulk of this story is about Roland’s search for (Drawing of) the three that are to help him get to the tower (as described to him by the Man in Black in Book 1).  The three are the Prisoner, the Lady of Shadows and Death.  Roland comes to doors along the beach that allow him to meet each player and, in his own gunslinger way, invite them on the journey.  After thinking about the book for a few days, I am most invested in the Lady of Shadows.  Her story was the most compelling and reminds us that noone is all good or all bad.  We all are shades of gray and, if we are lucky, we can merge the good and bad to become a whole person.   I also enjoyed the slight overlapping of the three different stories with unexpected interplay between characters (The Pusher and the Lady / The Pusher and Jake).  One other note – when King switched POVs between Roland and one of the supporting characters, you would have to think for a second to figure out where we were in the timeline.  I liked that it was a little more interesting this way.

 

My favorite quotes:

 

“But of course names were secret things, full of power.”

“So it was important to minimize the scarring and the hurt.  There was more work to be done.  Hate would not help that work.  Hate would, in fact, hinder it.  But sometimes you went on hating just the same.”

 

5/5 stars.  One of my favorites!!  Recommended to anyone who enjoys reading.

Review – Buried Secrets by Brandi Salazar

I truly enjoy reading books by new (or at least new to me) authors.  This has been one of the benefits of joining Goodreads.

Buried Secrets is about James, a young man who moves back to the town his family left several years earlier when his crush, Mercy, had been killed.  Other young girls start to die and James has to help figure out who is killing them.

The story was enjoyable but a little predictable.  Pretty early on, I was sure that I knew how the story would end and I would have liked to have been surprised.  I think this could have been accomplished by tightening up the story in a few spots.  (There were just a couple of scenes where it became very obvious what was going on.  With slight adjustments, it could have added to the suspense.)  Also, I didn’t think Jennifer’s reactions were always consistent with the attitude of a teenage girl (very few will go out on a limb and risk being embarrassed in front of their friends.)  Lastly, I’m not 100% sure but I think James and his family moved into Mercy’s old house when they moved back into town.  This seemed a little off to me.

I do have to give credit to the author.  This is a YA novel without any of the standard plot points that seem to be in every story right now – instalove, vampires/zombies/werewolves/fairies, etc.  Thank you for writing something original!

There were a few proofreading issues – “I she”, “ridged” instead of rigid.  And, the word “recant” was used improperly.  But, overall these didn’t detract from the story and were minimal based on my experience with other self published novels.

Overall, it was a book that I enjoyed and I would recommend it to someone looking for a different, yet easy read in the YA world.  3.5 / 5 stars (rounded to 4 on Goodreads because I appreciated the originality.)

Review – The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King

Stephen King has always been one of my favorite authors.  It scared me to death and The Green Mile made me weep uncontrollably.  I’ve gone several years without reading any of his books.  Excluding him from my Currently Reading list wasn’t by design.  I was just going through a different reading cycle.
Lately, it seems that I have been reading a good bit of, let’s face it, CRAP!  Some of the books were enjoyable, some were painful and others were utterly forgettable – which is the worst in my opinion.  I needed something to get me out of the rut I was in so I thought that Stephen wouldn’t let me down.  I had never read the Dark Tower series and knew that King considered it one of his great works.  So, I went in to this with very high expectations.  The problem with high expectations is that you are bound to be disappointed.  And, I can tell you that I was disappointed for the first 50 pages.  “How can I rate a King novel 2 stars?  Everyone will think I am an idiot.”  Honestly, he would have only gotten the 2nd star because he is such a beautiful writer.  It had nothing to do with the story.  I thought that I might have lost my reading mojo.  Time after time, I’d read several pages and realize that I remembered nothing of the story they contained.  I re-read about every page in that section at least twice and some of them four times.  But, I persevered.  There was no way I was going to have  a DNF on this one.
I am so glad I pulled through.  This turned out to be a 4-star book for me (and I bet if I re-read it in a year or so it could be a 5-star).  Maybe you just need to be in a Stephen King kind of mood.  Whatever the case, I am excited to read book 2 (next on my list) and I hope to finish the series of 7 books by the end of the year.
I won’t bother with a full recap of the plot.  I’m not even sure I truly understand it.  All you really need to know is that Roland Deschain, the gunslinger, is searching for the Dark Tower.  The first book chronicles his travels over desert and mountains to find the Man in Black (a sorcerer.)  He meets some very interesting (i.e. strange, disgusting, heartbreaking) characters along the way.
A few of my favorite quotes:
  • “At nineteen, it seems to me, one has a right to be arrogant; time has usually not begun its stealthy and rotten subtractions.”  This is actually not from the book but from the Introduction.
  • “The gunslinger occasionally moaned with the wind.  The stars were as indifferent to this as they were to wars, crucifixions, resurrections.  This also would have pleased him.”
  • ” ‘Beans, beans, the musical fruit,’ the raven recited, inspired.  ‘The more you eat, the more you toot.’ ” I’m sorry but you have to love such a talented author who can work this into a story.
  • “The gunslinger removed one of the shells from his gunbelt and twirled it in his fingers.  The movement was dexterous, as flowing as oil.  The shell cartwheeled effortlessly from thumb and index to index and second, to second and ring, to ring and pinky.  It popped out of sight and reappeared; seemed to float briefly, then reversed.  The shell walked across the gunslinger’s fingers.  The fingers themselves marched as his feet had marched on his last miles to this place.”  Like Jake, I was mesmerized.  Beautiful.  I’ve thought about this for days after reading.
  • “Time’s the thief of memory.”  True that.
  • “I was made for light.”

 

There were a couple of things that were a little strange.  The song “Hey Jude” was mentioned multiple times.  I’m hoping I’ll understand the connection at some point in the series.  There is a reference to matricide that I don’t yet understand.  And, my e-book had a few pictures in random places.  I could have done without them.  They didn’t add anything for me.

 

Bottom line – READ THIS BOOK.  Life is too short to not read Stephen King.  And, you won’t be nineteen forever – be arrogant while you can.  It’s just obnoxious at 40.

Review – Water by Terra Harmony

I wouldn’t know how to write this review honestly without some spoilers.  If you are planning to read this, be warned.  I’m going to tell you some things that happen and you’re not going to like them.  When I started reading this, I was enjoying it (hence the two stars instead of one.)  The writing isn’t perfect and I think it needs more character development.  But, there was some originality here.  The problem is…..well, let me tell you what happened.

Kaitlyn starts out as a strong female protagonist.  The book begins with her snowboarding while trying to escape an avalanche.  She pretty much keeps it together and struggles to survive.  Her strength goes downhill (ha ha) from there.  I won’t recap the whole story but she meets a group of, for lack of a better description, environmentalists, who are bringing her in so that she can help them save the world.  She is called a Gaia and has elemental power (control of water, wind, fire, earth).  But, we can’t just let her be a kick-butt superhero.  She has to be surrounded by men who are basically her keepers.

Cato is the “Rais” or the leader of the group.  His character was very underdeveloped and I have no idea if he is one of the good guys, a bad guy or insignificant.  I did like the fact that Kaitlyn let him have it when she found out that he had known of her power but kept it from her (resulting in the deaths of people around her.)

Alex is the only member of the group that doesn’t have special powers.  He doesn’t do a whole lot in the book and I’m still not sure why they have him as part of the team.

Micah, Micah, Micah.  I think we are supposed to like him.  I know Kaitlyn does.  She is drawn into his eyes, feels static when they touch and thinks he can read her mind.  Sound familiar?   He is her “Ardwyad” or protector.  He does protect her in some cases but then he also does some very bone-headed things.  The greenhouse scene – Why would he think that a good training tool would be to tell her if she can’t do “x” then he is going to rape her AND LET SHAWN WATCH.  Wait, what?  And she forgives him?  He also knows that Shawn has assaulted her on at least two occasions but still leaves her in situations where Shawn can get to her.  Great protector.

Shawn is the “Medwin”.  He can help magnify, dilute or block powers.  He kidnaps Kaitlyn (seriously, how did noone around her see this coming?)  Then he does horrible things to her.  Things that are unforgivable under any circumstance.

She gets away from him.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.  End Book.  (If you think I left out the best part with the “yadda, yadda, yadda”, that really depends on your definition of best.  Turns out Kaitlyn is pregnant and doesn’t know who is the father.  Micah, who she did sleep with willingly, or Shawn, who raped her.)

There are several situations in this book that really bothered me.  Some may have furthered the story but I think they could have been handled a little differently.  That is the author’s decision and I accept that.

The final issue is with the teaser that has been included for Book 2 in this series (isn’t every book part of a series now?)  At the end, several snippets from reviewers of “Air” are included.  One says “I really thought I had the plot figured out but BAM there’s a twist.  I fell in love with a character that I despised in the first novel.”  Umm, there was really only one character you could have truly despised from the first novel and there is no magic on earth that could make me fall in love with him.  He’s a rapist and probably worse.  Please tell me that they aren’t going to try to make him a hero.  I truly hope that isn’t what happens but I won’t be reading book 2 to find out.

Goodreads and Bad Behavior

I am a fairly new Goodreads user and am still learning the ropes.  I started by just adding books that I’ve read in the past and then began reading other reviews.  One of the first things to catch my eye was that there are several authors who seem to react poorly to reviews of their work.  In some cases, they would just comment on the review and ask the reader questions.  Other times, the author would try to defend their work.  There are those rare cases in which the author becomes abusive to the reviewer.  Most of the reviews in question are well written and fair to both the book and the author.  The most recent example was an author who actually called the reviewer a “douche” because she didn’t finish her book (the subject material was too touchy for her.)  This reviewer didn’t even rate the book and was extremely thoughtful in her review.  (Not to mention, a woman calling another woman a “douche” is just about the silliest thing I’ve ever read.   This says more about the author than any reviewer could ever write.)

Here’s the thing, Goodreads is a site for READERS!  This means that I should be able to go onto the site and see someone’s honest opinion.  I’ve read blog posts from some authors who believe you shouldn’t review or rate a book if you can’t give it four or five stars.  This, honestly, makes no sense to me.  Some of the best (and funniest) reviews I’ve read have been for books that were rated 1 or 2 stars.  And, guess what, those reviews didn’t keep me from reading a book that I would have otherwise picked up.

If you are going to put your work out there into the big, bad world then you should expect to receive criticism.  There will be those who love what you did, those who are indifferent and those who hate it.  That’s life.  Get over it.