Archive | August 2015

Review – Redshirts by John Scalzi

13055592If you’re a nerd like me, you’ve seen the name John Scalzi before.  He is a writer who is a former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  He’s also friends with Wil Wheaton, Joe Hill, Patric Rothfuss and other geeks we love.  I’ve wanted to read one of his books for a while and finally decided to take the leap with Redshirts.  Great decision.

Andrew Dahl has just joined the crew of the Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union.  He quickly notices that his shipmates do all they can to avoid some of the high ranking officers and there is a high death rate among low ranking crew members who go on away missions.  When he learns the truth about what is happening, it’s up to him and his friends to save themselves.

This wasn’t at all what I was expecting.  I knew it would be fun and creative.  But, in many ways it’s also deeply thought-provoking.  I can’t give you too many details as it would spoil what should be some big surprises.  Just know this, you will never watch another classic Star Trek episode without thinking of Redshirts and that is something special.  This will definitely not be my last Scalzi.

5/5 stars and highly recommended. Even if you’re not a nerd or a Star Trek fan.

Review – Another Man’s Moccasins (Walt Longmire #4) by Craig Johnson

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It’s hard to believe I’m already on book four of this series. While Another Man’s Moccasins wasn’t my favorite, it still earns a 4.5 rating for the story and continued exceptional character development.

My father’s birthday is next week and I know that he enjoys watching the TV show and enjoys reading all sorts of novels. It seemed almost too easy to consider buying him a set of Longmire books for his gift. I even had it in the Amazon cart ready to click. Then, I started reading AMM and questioned if it was the right decision. You see, a big part of the book are flashback scenes to Walt’s time in Vietnam. Some are harmless enough but others are vividly described and not pretty. It was war. Soldiers had to make tough decisions that they then live with their entire lives. Walt witnessed several atrocities and it’s a wonder he is as stable as written. Given that my father was also in Vietnam, I wasn’t sure I wanted to gift him something that could bring back memories he would rather keep compartmentalized. I asked my mom about it and she agreed with me. About an hour later, I got a call from her saying “Dad wants the books.” She had told him about it and he said that he wanted them. Rather than hiding from anything about Vietnam, he’d rather read these fictional accounts. He likes these stories and, I think, the sense of community he feels by sharing it with someone else anonymously.

This made me love my father even more and means I am rounding up my rating to 5-stars.

Review – Hammered (The Iron Druid Chronicles #3) by Kevin Hearne

9595620Hammered is the 3rd installment in the very fun Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.

It’s time for Atticus to live up to his promise to his vampire friend, Leif, and get him to Asgard to fight Thor (hence the name Hammered, get it?).  Nothing can ever be simple when you’re going up against a Norse thunder god.

Fun, creative and with enough emotion to make it worth your while.  That’s the Iron Druid series.  Hearne does a great job continuing to build both his characters and the world.  I am totally hooked.

Leif and Atticus take a few others with them to Asgard (the group could be the Village People – wizard, another thunder god, vampire, werewolf, druid).  All of them have their own beef with Thor, who sounds like a real douche-canoe in this world and definitely wouldn’t be played by Chris Hemsworth.  My favorite parts were the tales each person told to the group about their reasons for hating Thor.  Atticus had them do this to bring them closer together as a team to make their magical travel to Asgard possible.  These stories were almost equal parts funny and heartbreaking.  There was one revelation that I didn’t see coming that rocked me to the core.  Implications, there will be some.

My only minor quibble is that I felt the battle was a little rushed.  When you fight Thor with an appearance from Odin, I want more time devoted to it.

4/5 stars and highly recommended.  I can’t wait to see where Hearne takes the story from here.

Review – The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) by Jo Nesbo

6965550-2I’m not going to spend a lot of time discussing the intricacies of this installment of the Harry Hole series.  After all of my praise, you’re either reading it or not.  (If not, seriously…why?)  The Snowman is another solid entry and kept me hooked.  Harry is searching for a killer.  That’s all you really need to know.

This wasn’t my favorite but was still good enough to rate 4/5 stars.  A few things just didn’t quite click as well as in prior installments.  However, it was an edge of your seat finish which means I am itching to get to book 8.

Instead of taking up space with more praise for Nesbo, I’ve decided to share a tidbit about myself.  I can get excited about the strangest things in life.  One that always gets me is finding a different edition of a book.  Living in SC in the good ol’ USA, I know that if I have the UK edition, it’s not the exact same as everyone else has.  And, I like that.  Most of the time, these are random finds at used book stores.  The Snowman was such a find and it even has the price sticker still attached showing the price in Euros (14.99) and the original jacket shows the price in Pounds (12.99).  I would have chosen this over any US edition.

But, really, they do need a little quality control at the printing press for Harvill.  About halfway through, I started reading a page and thought “wait a minute, didn’t I just read this?”  When I looked at the page number it was 219 but the prior page was 222.  Here’s what happened for the next 50 pages or so: 219-220-221-222-219-220-2212-222-223-224-225-226-223-224-225-226….and so on.  VERY annoying when you are trying to immerse yourself in a story.  The good news was that I had fewer pages left than I thought so got through it that much faster. The bad news is that I was irritated during some important scenes.

If anyone is in the publishing business, I’d love to know how this could happen.  I imagine that everything is computerized and done by robots and we all know they don’t make mistakes.

Review – Alice by Christina Henry

23398606If anyone wondered why I recently re-read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, here you have it.  I was preparing to read this updated take on Alice’s adventure.  And, you know what?  It’s kind of excellent.  As I said in one of my status updates this is not your mother’s Alice in Wonderland.

We meet Alice, a resident of a mental institution who has vague memories of being attacked by a rabbit and then…blood.  In the room next to her is Hatcher, an unstable man with whom she has a friendship through their shared wall.  When a fire takes over the hospital, the two of them escape along with something else that was hidden below ground.  Now, they have to find this monster before it kills even more people.

I’m not quite sure how to describe Alice.  It’s technically horror but I didn’t find it overly scary or gory.  Instead it was very dark psychologically.  Alice’s parents have given up on her and she has to find an internal strength that she doesn’t think she has.  Hatcher takes care of her but is violent and unpredictable to just about everyone else.  Healthy relationship?  Not really but Alice will take what she can get.

What makes this great is that it is unapologetically bleak when it needs to be.  Nothing is really off-limits and if you have triggers beware (rape, sex slavery, violence, blood, etc.)  But, if you get past all of that, you will see that it’s about finding your way, discovering your strengths and coming to terms with the past.

The ending was a little rushed and I could sense the setup for future books.  But, overall a great read and highly recommended.  4/5 stars.

Mini-review – Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

  

Fast paced, well developed, full of gore. Could you ask for anything more from a story about mermaids? Add in TV producers from a questionable network, ambitious scientists and a mermaid performance group and you have another Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire winner.
Plus, look at that gorgeous cover. 
5/5 stars. 

Review – Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal #1) by Zen Cho

sorcerer_front mech.inddFrom Goodreads: Magic and mayhem collide with the British elite in this whimsical and sparkling debut.

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.

But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…”

 

This book frustrated me.  While reading, I was generally entertained (and for those that follow my reviews, you know that is important to me.)  But there were a few things that kept me from being immersed in the story and truly enjoying it.

First, and most noticeable, is that it seemed too similar to other stories I’ve read in the genre.  Throughout, I kept thinking of Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker series.  The main female, Cat, has magical abilities and one of the first things we see her do is wrap herself in shadows to be invisible.  In Sorcerer to the Crown, Prunella uses a spell for invisibility to get into Zacharias’ chambers.  Spiritwalker’s male lead is Andevai who is described as being a man of color.  Here, we have Zacharias who is discriminated against because he is a man of color.  In both series, the leads try to act like they aren’t in love until something forces them to make a decision.  I also felt some similarities to the Bannon & Clare series by Lilith Saintcrow (Emma Bannon is a Prime Sorceress who serves the crown.)  Nothing was too obvious but it didn’t feel original and fresh enough when I’ve read so many others in the series.  There just wasn’t anything new.

There were missed opportunities with the stories of Pru’s parentage, the relationship between Britain and fairyland, the magical wars between other countries, etc.  They weren’t developed enough to have any emotional impact.  (I know, I know.  These things can be further fleshed out in the rest of the series.  My problem is that a novel should stand alone.  Not all questions have to be answered but major details like this need to be fleshed out or it seems incomplete.  And, I really don’t want to feel like a book is just a setup for a sequel.)

And, we do need to talk about Prunella.  While Zacharias was a sympathetic character, I pretty much hated Pru until the end.  It’s one thing to write a strong, free-willed female lead.  That’s great!  But when you make her selfish, careless and unnecessarily impudent, she isn’t likable.  Most books need lead characters that don’t cause you to roll your eyes.  Pru didn’t pass that test.

Overall, I’ve given this 3-stars as it was entertaining.  I only wish it had seemed more unique to earn more stars.

Thank you to Penguin for providing an e-copy of this book as part of their First To Read program in exchange for an honest review.