Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: Sanctuary: Joust #3

Sanctuary: Joust #3
Sanctuary: Joust #3 by Mercedes Lackey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My wife loves this series and reads it at least once a year, so about 2 years I bought them in hardcover for our personal library.

I discovered Lackey when I was in highschool and during college. I liked most of her storylines [when you're 17, everything is new] but found a lot of her material to be objectionable from a Christian standpoint. So I ended up being extremely wary of her works, as I felt like I was walking through a minefield every time I read one of her books. Now, being a bit more mature, I feel like those "mines" are more like dog poop "mines". If I step on them, they won't kill me, but they make me feel disgusting and then I need to go wash my feet off :)

Now that I've got all that out of my system, let write about the book itself. This was right on par with the previous two. Same pacing, same characters acting the same way, same gushing about dragons, same badguys being all "baddy".

My first thought when starting this was "why are they keeping the dragons around?" The group in Sanctuary doesn't seem to be planning on using the dragons as an army, aren't going to attack anyone, yet they spend enormous resources, in manpower, time and materials, keeping these dragons around and planning for more. They are gigantic pets!

Then things get going with Alta and Tia and the mages and everything wraps up pretty neatly and nicely. And I know that there is another book yet. So I ask my wife about the whole "dragon" question and she told me that the next book addresses that very issue; I also asked her WHAT the final book could be about, as it felt like this one really wrapped the series up. She just told me that the story moves to a wider scope than previously but still wraps up ok.

So final word is if you liked the previous 2 books, you'll like this. If you didn't, don't bother, this isn't some how magically "better" than them, it is the same :)

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Wives and Daughters

Wives and Daughters
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having heard a lot about Gaskell, I was prepared for something similar to Jane Austen.

And in many instances, Gaskell fulfilled that expectation. This was a romance with the pre-requisite class distinction, harsh societal rules and busy bodies.

Unfortunately, it also had Molly, the main character. I like a "good" character, but I also want to read about a character who has some spine, some spitfire. In other words, Elizabeth Bennett. Molly reminded me of the main character from [b:Mansfield Park|45032|Mansfield Park|Jane Austen||2722329], a milksop.

And the non-ending, while full of promise that is pretty clear, is abrupt. I didn't realize that Gaskell had died before finishing this book. I didn't like it any better this time than when I read [b:The Mystery of Edwin Drood|329957|The Mystery of Edwin Drood|Charles Dickens||3058467] or when [a:Robert Jordan|6252|Robert Jordan|] died part way through the Wheel of Time series.

So I realize that I'm complaining a lot, but I did enjoy it. Just not as greatly as I expected.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Dark Force Rising

Dark Force Rising
Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You know, upon re-reading this, it wasn't as great as I remembered when I was in my 'teen/20's.

Don't get me wrong, this is a great Star Wars book [well, with competition like [book:Dark Nest Trilogy (Star Wars)|359773], that doesn't mean QUITE so much]. It is also classic Zahn. I've come to realize that Zahn doesn't do action real well. That is not his strongpoint. Ideas, character interaction and cool ideas are however.

And these aren't NEW anymore. When these came out, Episode 1 hadn't come out. The Clone Wars cartoon didn't exist. There weren't 200+ already written Star Wars books. So this fed the Beast Within. Now? No matter how good a meal is, it ALWAYS tastes better when you are hungry. I'm filled up. The last 20'ish years have seen me glutted, on the good and the bad.

I think that is a good thing because it means that Zahn laid down a foundation that has held up the EU even through some seriously stinky novels [[book:Darksaber|513210], oh my goodness, make me puke RIGHT NOW!].

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: Washington I.O.U.

Washington I.O.U.
Washington I.O.U. by Don Pendleton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bolan takes on the Mafia, who are poised to take over Washington DC.

This series is supposed to be over the top in many cases, but when the takeover of the United States by one middle mafia member is the story, and the taking out of that one mafiosi is how the whole plan falls apart, well, forgive me the excessive eye rolling.

However, it is during this story that Bolan helps out and accepts help from Brognola, and the situation is setup for the future if Bolan decides to work for the gov't on a secret level.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: Goblin Hero

Goblin Hero
Goblin Hero by Jim C. Hines

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As much fun as the first book was, this wasn't quite as fun, but it explored another goblin character almost as much as Jig.

A fat gobliness who wanted to be a magician and hated Jig because he wouldn't teach her magic. And pixies, those evil little balls of light. I mean, who DOESN'T hate pixies? Grrrrr. Bad pixie, bad!

All in all, even though I didn't find this as "fun" as the first book, I did enjoy it just as much. Definitely have the 3rd and final book in my TBR pile...

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: The Emperor's Soul

The Emperor's Soul
The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though this was touted as a "novella", at around 100 pages, this is just as long as some of the Elric novels by Moorcock.

And I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've been on a roll recently with good books and for that I'm thankful. The afterwords by Sanderson places this in the [b:Elantris|68427|Elantris|Brandon Sanderson||2908871] universe, but it had been so long since I read it that I wouldn't have noticed otherwise. Even with all the runing going on :)

There is also a list of other short stories by Sanderson and this has whetted my appetite to track them down and read them as well.

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Review: And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've got a bunch of Agatha Christie books that I'm working my way through this year. And I randomly chose this one to read now.

It felt extremely familiar. And then I realized, I'd read this before. Back in the late 90's. Only, it was called 10 Little Indians. I don't know why the name changed, but I suspect the evil touches of Political Correctness.

Anyway, this was awesome! Murder, murder, murder. And all based on a nursery rhyme. And even on this re-read, it was just a lot of fun to see the story unfold again. Extremely recommended.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: Captain's Fury

Captain's Fury
Captain's Fury by Jim Butcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I originally read this back in '10 [ My First Review ] and thought it was fantastic.

This time, I just flew through this book. It was great. I enjoyed the danger, the fighting, the tactics, the relationships and the story.

I love the fact that Butcher makes Tavi act outside the circumstances set up for him by others. Of course, it pisses me off when Tavi is maneuvered into impossible situations by people who call him on breaking laws while they themselves are grossly violating the laws.

Huh, kind of like liberals. Dang, maybe Butcher will make me political yet!

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Ruins

Ruins by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As good as the first book was, I wasn't sure if this book would live up to the premise of the first book, or lead me to a destructive crash like the starships from the first book.

Freaking fantastic. The same things that I liked about the first book are still here in this book. Rational people, figuring out their problems, figuring out WHAT their problems are and then doing something smart about it.

I was in the middle of [b:Wives and Daughters|383206|Wives and Daughters|Elizabeth Gaskell||816009], and the estrogen floating in that book made my brain boil. So the cool, calm, calculating rationalism in this book was like a cold refreshing drink on a hot humid day. It might not be totally fair to base my rating on THIS book on how I was reacting to another book, but you know what? Anything that bumps UP a book is a good thing in my eyes.

Not that any of the characters in Ruins are perfect, far from it. There is plenty of interpersonal problems, lots of cat fighting [hahahahaha, you'll get just how amusing THAT statement is once you've read the book] and plenty of humanity showing in the group.

The intricacies of the plot, twisted even more so by Card's indepth look at Time Travel, is great. I've really enjoyed this and am looking forward to the rest of the series. I just hope doesn't pull a Jordan and die on us before he finishes the series, because I don't see a Sanderson waiting in the wings to wrap things up.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Eight Skilled Gentlemen

Eight Skilled Gentlemen
Eight Skilled Gentlemen by Barry Hughart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book. I probably would have enjoyed it more and given it 5stars but for a few things.

All the versifying. Turned me off with it's repetition. Hostetler Tu's food rants. They were too long to be funny after the first one. They were just annoying.

Other than that, I really liked this book. Started out with a bang with monsters and vampires and plots, oh my! Reminded me a lot of the first book. I found the political intrigue just as interesting as the monster/myth hunting.

If you liked the previous books, you'll most likely like this one as well.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Cobra Slave

Cobra Slave
Cobra Slave by Timothy Zahn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wrote my long [for me] review and accidently hit the back button on my browser because of my stupid touchpad on my laptop.

And so I lost it all.

Basically, I absolutely loved this book and thought that the Dominion of Man was the perfect badguy and I love having good badguys to hate.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Review: Wool

Wool by Hugh Howey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A solid 3star, but no more. A story about a dystopian society, a wife who kills herself and her depressed husband/sheriff. Who ends up killing himself in the same way.

But! Did they actually die? At the end of this short story we're just not sure. In fact, I'm not sure about a lot of things.

I would recommend people read the omnibus edition, [b:Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1)|13453029|Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1) (Wool, #1-5)|Hugh Howey||18979356], as they can immediately read the rest of the story without waiting. Not having the sequel immediately after reading the first story killed it for me, as I don't like dystopia for the most part and nothing in this story encouraged me to read more.

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Sunday, July 07, 2013

Review: The Stress of Her Regard

The Stress of Her Regard
The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Normally, I'd probably be giving this a 4star rating. It was extremely well written, exciting, horrifying, action-packed and chock full of blood and magic.

So stop there if you liked this book.

The main reason I'm going with 2stars is because the week that I read this book I worked double shifts almost every day, was coming down from dealing with my first ABB and had no emotional cushion to deal with this book.

It many ways it was brutal. When Michael wakes up the first morning and sees Julia and reacts, I almost screamed right along with him. When the children and relatives keep dying off, something inside me just curled up and died with them. When Keats did what he needed to to keep others safe, I almost cried. When Byron tried to have the best of both worlds [or at least the non-worst of both], I wanted to shoot him.

The only other books by Powers that I've read have been [b:The Anubis Gates|142296|The Anubis Gates|Tim Powers||2193115] and [b:On Stranger Tides|15670|On Stranger Tides|Tim Powers||17505]. Both were pretty cool and I especially liked Anubis, as it was pretty much a character kicking ass, making the best of a bad situation and coming out on top at the end.
This book, not so much. I felt like the characters, all of them, were barely making it through each day and that was just depressing to me the reader.

So to end. If you've enjoyed Powers other books, you'll probably like this one. If you like vampires, you'll probably like this one.
But if you're an emotional person like me, wait to read this until you've got some reserves to deal with it. You'll need it.

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Friday, July 05, 2013

Review: Shadow's Rise - Return of the Cabal

Shadow's Rise - Return of the Cabal
Shadow's Rise - Return of the Cabal by Joseph J. Bailey

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

From the description, I was kind of hoping for a book along the vein of [b:Way-farer|967191|Way-farer|Dennis Schmidt||952088]. And I LOVE that book and re-read it. Way-farer is martial arts and zen.

And this is what I thought this was going to be. So I dl'd the sample from amazon and jumped right in. So everything that follows is from the sample only. The first 5 or 6 chapters I believe.

My first, very charitable thought, was that Bailey was trying to emulate [a:Patricia A. McKillip|25|Patricia A. McKillip|], with her lyrical, almost poetical style of prose.

The potential, the interrelationships, the interconnectivity, and individuation all commingled in a great sea of light scintillating beneath the sun.
-Location 209

The problem is, this verbose, florid overuse of descriptive wordiness continued on for the whole book. McKillip is a master, while Bailey sounded like a rank amateur.

Word craft. Lots of words are used that I had to go look up. And all were technically correct. But they tended to be 'archaic' forms of other words we already use:
[I could NOT find that one. If you know of a link to a definition, I'd appreciate it]

The above words, and others, were used, it seemed, not so much as to make the story better but more along the lines of a little boy waving his shiny new trumpet hollering "look at me! I have a shiny trumpet!".

...his head close enough to the beast' smell the creature's thick, unkempt rank
-Location 1034

Just another example of things being slightly off. Hair can be unkept [unkempt is a slightly older version] and thick, but "rank" means smell. Just slightly too enthusiastic with describing things and not paying attention to the nuts and bolts of the story.

Which brings us to plot.

A monastary of super monks [who have been around, apparently, an age beyond description ] in touch with the lifeforce of creation itself is attacked and forced to move to another plane of existance. And our MC is left behind because he isn't advanced enough to do the plane walking AND he wants to fight the badguys, who seem to be just "evil".

a couple of questions immediately sprang to mind.
1) Why did all the supermonks, priests and other trainee's leave? Wasn't it their duty as well to stay and fight?
2) the monks appear to have "just begun their work" in the area, even though they've been there an age beyond description. Huh? Which is it?
3) MC isn't well trained enough. But when he starts his journey/quest, all I heard about him from the author describes how he can "X, Y and Z" because of his many years of intense training. Our MC is apparently both a complete novice and a master. But you the reader will never know which one will be in control.

Then there are things that just didn't make sense to me. MC is hiding from the Evil Guys, who can track his psychic footprint and his very life essense. So what does he do the first night out? Call out to his master in his dreams and have a long coversation with him.

Another time he is in a forest, and he starts "casting out his mind" to look for sentient beings so he can avoid them. Hello? Paint a target on yourself or something.

After surviving a poison forest [poison that is both magical and mundane but both and yet neither], he comes into contact with some Super Tree beings. Beings that were the teachers of the elves and have been hidden for eons and eons. Not only does he find them, but makes contact with them mentally, and avoids frying his brain because of all his years of mental training. A certain amount of serendipity I can take, but forcing my brain into a pretzel of unbelief doesn't work for me.

Finally, Bailey can't write an action scene to save his life. Well, technically, he can. Lots of "fast" and "jumping" and action words, but no real combat seems to take place. Kind of like "he moved real fast and hit the creature, who was jumping really high and the battle was over", but in his verbose way of saying things. I got lots of descriptions of the MC waking up, trudging around and feeling all in touch with himself and nature, but when it came to things actually happening, Bailey drops the verbal ball.

So while I liked the idea put forth in the blurb, the verbosity, floridness and lack of good action scenes did this in for me.

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Review: Wired

Wired by Douglas E. Richards

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review is for the sample I got from Amazon for my Kindle Touch.

I really enjoyed this. It started out with a merc physically bullying/kidnapping a female character which really put me off, but then it was placed in context. And Kontext can be King.

I read 2-3 chapters. Met the male protaganist and am still not sure about the lead female. I am definitely going to either borrow the full book from the library, or if they don't have it, save my pennies and buy it from Amazon.

I am looking forward to the full story.

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Review: Heir to the Empire

Heir to the Empire
Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Been 14 years since I read this. I remember being blown away when I first read this. Probably helped that this was nearly my first Star Wars book [after Mr Twincest himself's book, poor guy].

This time I read it with a much vaster repertoire of books read under my belt. It was still a very good book. But it wasn't incredible.

Zahn does a fantastic job of creating the characters like how you would expect them to be after the Trilogy. So many foundations of the EU are introduced and laid down in this book and the rest of the trilogy. It almost makes me cry. Especially when considering the Kataana Fleet [mentioned in this book] and how Mr. Mccube Dowel completely gutted that story with his horrible Black Fleet trilogy. [If I'm mixing up authors/series, feel free to correct me in the comments section and I'll fix it. I just don't care enough right now to go look it up].

Mara. To me, that sums up Zahn's highest achievement with this book. Even greater than Thrawn imo.

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Review: Monk's Hood

Monk's Hood
Monk's Hood by Ellis Peters

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Truth be told, I am enjoying this series, but it can get pedestrian at times.

Thankfully, the Father Abbot Heribert is being replaced, so I'm hoping the new Father will play a slightly larger role.

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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Review: The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this more than I actually did. I know read a version of this book [probably an abridged one] back in highschool and have watched several iterations of the movie and liked them all.

The idea is awesome. The setting is properly "gothic". The characters were appropriately hotheaded, lovely, terrible and stupid, all as needed.

Unfortunately, Leroux's writing just didn't work for me. I can't pin it down exactly what it is that put me off, unfortunately. One of life's great mysteries I guess...

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