Monday, 28 November 2016

Review: Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy: Dark Force Rising: Volume 2

Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy: Dark Force Rising: Volume 2 Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy: Dark Force Rising: Volume 2 by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second part of the Thrawn Trilogy, you can read my review of Star Wars: Heir to the Empire on my blog.

I liked it, but it didn't grab me as much as the first book did. I was way more aware of Zahn's little writing quirks in this one. Everyone's lip was always twisting and Thrawn's eyes were always glittering.

It might of been due to the fact I went large swaths of time without listening but I feel like the story jumped around a little too much. One minute everyone was doing their own thing, the next they were all in the same place having a meeting? I must have missed something.

Also, the identity of the person feeding intel to the Empire is obvious and if I'm wrong I'm calling shenanigans.

However, though I should have seen it coming, because Star Wars, I was genuinely surprised by the cliffhanger ending. That must have been amazing 20-something years ago.

Anyway, still good, but not as amazing as the first book. The production and narration is still top notch. Leia's plot is still the most interesting to me, and I still dislike Mara Jade, but not as much.

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Thursday, 6 October 2016

Review: This Is Where It Ends

This Is Where It Ends This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This review will contain spoilers. You have been warned!

This was...fine.
This book is told from the point of view of 4 highschool students who endure a school shooting. Some characters were likable, some weren't.
I liked Tomas, and Sylvia, Autumn at least had issues and I wanted Claire to die in a dumpster fire.

Reading some reviews before I finished the book, there's a lot of criticism on the shooter's motivation. How "he was just evil" and I don't see that. He was grieving his mother, he was feeling abandoned by his sister who had big dreams, he was beaten by an alcoholic father, he was bullied, his locker was set on fire, his girlfriend dumped him. He was angry, sad, lost, rageful. He wasn't evil, he was neglected and abandoned. He could have gotten help but no one was listening.

So, here are the problems I had with this book.
Other than making the Spanish characters randomly speak Spanish so we know they're Spanish, everyone spoke the same. Everyone. And to that point, nobody cursed. They're teenagers, in the middle of a shooting, and not one swear word. Someone actually says "That scared the daylights out of me." No. No, now is the time for a 'Shit'. It scared the shit out of you.

Let's break this down by character now.

He was fine. No real gripes about him. Probably one of the better characters. A shame we never got to see his crowning moment of awesome before he died. He deserved that.

I liked her. Honestly I thought she and Fareed had more chemistry than she and Autumn. Heck, she had more chemistry with her brother, which is troubling.

She was fine. I felt for her, even if her situation's climax was obvious from a mile away. Of course she was going to get shot in the knee. Or the back. Or something. Also, her last few paragraphs bugged me. Your brother killed a bunch of people, died, your dad beats the crap out of you and your brother took away your dreams probably. But it's ok because you have your high-school girlfriend by your side? You know that love isn't gonna last, right? Autumn isn't going to be content staying in that town, maybe she'll even resent Sylv because Sylv was one of the triggers that drove her brother to his extremes. Stupid and delusional.

Here we go. Let's talk about Claire. Her's was my absolute least favourite thread. Claire's, the shooter's ex, on the track team so she misses the assembly. Her and her BFF/Future lover Chris try to run toward town, never make it, are picked up by the cops, can do jack-all, then help the grieving. Also her disabled brother dies in the shooting.

Her Run Forest, Run! plot does NOTHING! It contributes NOTHING! Yes, she finds the security guard shot but what did running down the road, then tripping twice while reminiscing about your family achieve? And then when the cop drops her off back to the school she asks other track members who called the cops, only to find out it was someone inside the school. So that was totally useless.

I get it. The author probably wanted to show how completely helpless Claire was. Then, why not...just...pace and show how helpless she is? Or go find the security guard, because that's a good idea, only to find that he's dead. Worry about your disabled brother. SOMETHING!

And then, near the end she finds romance with Chris. Then her brother dies. And she's all "I don't want to be alone anymore..."

Sweetheart you have parents that love you, a whole track team, a sister who's in the army but still loves you and might not die and a brother who, up until his death, thought you hung the moon. Versus other characters who have been beaten, abused, raped, dead parents, or losing family members to Alzheimers. But please, go on about how alone you are.

I was hoping this would be better than Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes and I'm not sure it was. It probably wasn't. Maybe the subject matter is just too difficult to get right.

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Review: FAB

FAB FAB by Mark Gillespie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fun little "What if?"
Cute little potshots at history and culture.
Predictable ending but I'm interested in part 2.
Needed more Charles Manson.

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Thursday, 22 September 2016

Review: Heir to the Empire

Heir to the Empire (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy, #1)Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You can't be a Star Wars fan on the internet and not have heard about Thrawn, Mara Jade, and Kaard. It just doesn't happen. Especially after Disney bought it all and said the books didn't happen.

I'm a big fan of Star Wars: Rebels and when it was revealed that Thrawn was going to be in it, thereby actually legitimizing some stuff, big, well loved stuff from the books, I immediately tracked down what was told to me to be a great audiobook version.

This was amazing.

The story is interesting and exciting.

Thrawn was well written, intriguing an we weren't just told he was bad ass, we were shown. He does have a brilliant tactical mind, which is put into action. Like the people around Thrawn, you're left wondering how the attack on Endor would have gone if Thrawn was in command.

I'm especially interested in where Leia's story is going. There's a lot of potential there.

Now, on to Mara Jade. I know roughly who she is and who she will become, so I was expecting this kick ass chick. I kinda got it, but I also got a snotty, whiny, "None of you business!" annoyance. I don't know if it was the narrator's fault for sounding too soft and whiny and snarky, or how she was written or what. I was very underwhelmed by her. That's a shame because I like her back story and motivation, but she comes across as too childish and contemptuous and not enough of an actual damaged person. She suffered a trauma but acts like her parents wouldn't let her go to a party.

Otherwise, the narrator was terrific, getting almost everyone's voice down, from Han Solo to Lando to Ackbarr. His Leia is a little questionable but he's a guy, he did what he could. Also, his Wookie was annoying but I find wookies annoying an grating in general. It's hard to play KOTOR when you like Mission and hate Zaalbar.

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Monday, 13 June 2016

Review: The End

The EndThe End by Adam M. Booth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

...I smell his breath. It is gastric plastic.

THE END is a short horror tale about a single mother who, while waiting for her daughter at a train station, gets bitten by a zombie. Her sense of self is still aware but she has no control, a silent, passive prisoner in her own shambling, rotting body.

I wanted to like the story, some turns of phrase are really nice, like the one I quoted above. Also there is one scene with an escalator that was fun and gross. Unfortunately the bulk of the story felt really overwritten, vague, and abstract. It's trying for poetic but it just comes off as pretentious.

Worst of all? It just doesn't end. It keeps going and going to absurd levels until by the end I was rolling my eyes.

Apparently I'm super picky about my zombie stories.

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Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Review: Plague of Angels

Plague of Angels Plague of Angels by John Patrick Kennedy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nyx is Queen of Hell and ruler of the Angels who were banished there – the Descended.

And when the rest of the Angels are called home, Nyx finds herself stuck on the Earth with the Son of God. To her surprise, she learns that he is no happier than she. God's son thought he was sent down to judge humanity. Instead, he becomes a sacrifice for a cause he does not believe in – their redemption.

After his mortal body dies, the Son of God makes Nyx an offer: a new paradise on Earth if she will help him destroy humanity.

This book is an inspiration to me. Though not without it's flaws I found so much to love here.
I'm a sucker for crossovers, and loved the fact that non-Christian gods were in fact Angels.

I felt for Nyx and found her love for The Son of God to be very believable. There is amazing pathos and imagery in the first few chapters which sets up everything. That her love fed her need for vengeance was very in tune with her character.

I liked the world the author set up, his versions of Hell and Earth and Heaven were traditional but with slight twists. The tortures devised in Hell were creative, and Lucifer himself had a neat design. Everything in this book was tinged with a sense of hate and rage which was neat. The body-horror was fun, the brutality, the gore, the creativity, the loving moments, the rules of how Angels work, it was all well thought out and made the world seem richer.

My main issue with the book is that the start is amazing, and the end is good, but the middle just kind of feels like a clip show.

I really, really loved the first few chapters, so much so that I wish they were expanded upon. I want to see Nyx meet The Son of God, try to seduce him, maybe start to think about what he preached. We get that, but only paragraphs. All of that is rife with story! That backstory IS the story!

The middle is chapters and chapters showing moments where great empires rose, fell and the same for Christianity. We meet popes, kings, lawmakers, but there's no real through-line. We meet one, then jump 50 years and meet another. And another, and another. Hey look, it's Caligula! Remember when he tried to have his horse elected for the senate? Oh, Caligula!

But the ending is good! I was eager to see how it would all come to a head, and was not disappointed. I'm going to eagerly read book 2, now that we're back to the really good stuff.

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Thursday, 21 April 2016

Review: The Crow: Curare

The Crow: CurareThe Crow: Curare by James O'Barr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not the biggest fan of The Crow. I find the first book over-rated, and the The Crow saga I enjoyed was The Crow: Flesh & Blood.

This story was great. It was realistic, shocking horror with just enough childlike innocence to make it easier to process.

It's brutal and violent and disgusting, but also has moments that are incredibly cathartic. My favourite The Crow tale by far.

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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Review: The Walking Dead: The Alien

The Walking Dead: The Alien The Walking Dead: The Alien by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Dumb, boring and pointless. No one cared about what this random character that was name-dropped over 10 years ago was doing. Likely no one remembered he existed.

Reviewers from actual legit sources are raving about Claudia, but why? She wears armor, and then she wears a bra, and then she makes innuendo while wearing a bra. Then she falls off a boat. Comparing her to Michonne, Andrea, TV-verse Carol, TV-Verse Sasha, or Molly, Clem or Jane from the games, she's a far cry from your standard TWD badass female.


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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Review: Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of my favourite books is John Dies at the End, and I liked the follow up This Book Is Full of Spiders so when I heard David Wong wrote a new book with new characters, I was on board.

So, what do I think?

It's fine.

It's not as clever or funny or out-there as John Dies or Spiders but at times I did laugh, and they were good laughs. It has a good cast of characters for the most part and the future world it inhabits seems quite realistic.

I liked Zoe, protagonist and her supporting cast. Some were fleshed out more than others but the ones who were fleshed out had good rapport with one another.

The antagonist was kind of amusing, but that might be because the audiobook narrator gave him a sort of bro cadence.

Possibly some of my enjoyment was kind of killed because the narrator had a weird way of sometimes ending sentences when she came across a comma. Like "The building was huge. Red. And looked like there was molten lava flowing. Over the surface of it." So, that was annoying and for the first few chapters I wasn't sure I would stick with it.

So, it was fine. Some fun sci-fi until I move on to the next.

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Friday, 11 March 2016

Review: And the Ass Saw the Angel

And the Ass Saw the Angel And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Outcast, mute, a lone twin cut from a drunk mother in a shack full of junk, Euchrid Eucrow of Ukulore inhabits a nightmarish Southern valley of preachers and prophets, incest and ignorance. When the God-fearing folk of the town declare a foundling child to be chosen by the Almighty, Euchrid is disturbed. He sees her very differently, and his conviction, and increasing isolation and insanity, may have terrible consequences for them both...

I've made it very clear I am a diligent fan of Nick Cave. I read his second book The Death of Bunny Munro a few years back and fell in love with it. Then I got the audio book and fell in love even harder. Over the years Bunny Munro has supplanted my previous favourite books.

I had always meant to read And the Ass Saw the Angel but put it off because, to be honest, the synopsis didn't grab me. I'm not much for Southern Gothic. It took Bunny Munro to push me into finally sinking my teeth into this.

It was beautifully disgusting.

Once again Nick Cave's use of language, words, structure and imagery make for an interesting reading experience. It's wet and rotting and dusty and sweaty and sticky and gross. It's verbose and decaying and breathing. It's unrelenting and unsympathetic.

Everyone in this book, with two small exceptions, is a horrible person. There are no heroes, only villains or victims. Euchrid himself would be an anti-hero who devolves into madness if it weren't for the fact he was just so weird to the level it makes him unrelatable. It's like Nick Cave took the running inner thoughts of a member of Rob Zombie's Firefly family. But even the Firefly family were loyal and cared about one another. There is no care, no love, not even friendship to be found here.

That sounds negative, doesn't it? It's actually praise. It's such a weird descent into completely alien world-views and environment that it makes it a fascinating read, helped along greatly but amazing prose. The ending made me smile because I am sometimes a horrible person and I felt very satisfied. Euchrid got a small win, unbeknownst to him, and the righteous townsfolk are left drowning under the weight of their own prophecies.

I still prefer Bunny Munro because I found Bunny himself more 'fun' than Euchrid and his plight more interesting and universal. They're both horrible people but Bunny doesn't stomp dogs to death, so, there's one point in his favour.

Fun fact: While reading this book, Nick Cave's song Tupelo has constantly been replaying itself in my head. It's been a month and a half. Send help.

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Sunday, 14 February 2016

Review: An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge

An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge by Christopher Sergel
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was ok. I read/listened to it because I had heard it inspired Jacob's Ladder, one of my all time favourite movies. Consequently I knew how it would end.

The Twilight Zone episode of it was good too. Knowing how it would end, I feel the visuals of the ending were better than the text, but overall the text was probably better than the short film.

However, the short was extremely faithful to the prose.

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Friday, 15 January 2016

Review: Road Kill: A Horror Novella

Road Kill: A Horror Novella Road Kill: A Horror Novella by Shawn Raiford
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

1.5 stars

This started out with promise. I was in the mood for something dark and depraved and this story is packed with gore, blood, and all things vile.

Unfortunately near the end there was this weird over-abundance of commas. Peppered throughout the story was an over abundance of similes. At one point, half the page was all similes. I counted five on one page alone.

The worst, but also the most memorable was: "It felt like his heart was about to come out of his chest like that baby alien tore out of that man's chest in that movie, Alien."

Also, the killer's name is Ana R. Key. Way to be edgy.

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Monday, 7 December 2015

Review: The Single Staircase

The Single Staircase The Single Staircase by Matt Ingwalson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

Well, the good thing is I couldn't put the story down. It was an intriguing little mystery. There could have been more detail as to who Owl and Raccoon were, and any attempt to explain who they were was kind of contradicted.

For example, Raccoon was supposed to be the quick, clever, sneaky one but it was Owl who tricked his way past a suspect, a suspect, I might add, that Raccoon insisted they investigate.

A quick, engaging read, good for Law & Order fans.

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Review: The Solace Pill

The Solace Pill The Solace Pill by Jason Werbeloff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe I didn't appreciate this book as much as I should have because I was reading other things at the same time, including Werbeloff's wonderful anthology Obsidian Worlds.

For me, this was Werbeloff's first mis-step. I liked it, it was creative and unique, but I found the jumping around very confusing, especially at the end. Maybe it was all very clear in the author's mind, and it just didn't get on paper right.

I think this book demands focus and dedication from the reader and I don't think I gave it enough. Certainly for hardcore sci-fi fans, it'll be well liked but I think it was too heady for me.

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Thursday, 3 December 2015

Review: Mazie Baby

Mazie Baby Mazie Baby by Julie Frayn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There will be spoilers. You have been warned.

This is not the book I was promised by the synopsis.

Let's break the synopsis down, shall we?

Mazie schemes to save herself and her daughter.

Only kind of. Ok, I will give credit here. I do like the gift card trick Mazie was pulling, but otherwise there wasn't so much scheming as 'just in case', or a dream of freedom or something.

Her plan will work, if she can out-maneuver the monster who is a master of manipulation and control.
Also, no.
This is my big problem with the book. The synopsis makes it feel like she pulls a Gone Girl or a Sleeping With The Enemy. Like she escapes her abusive husband and has to stay hidden from him, always just barely one step ahead of him.
But she doesn't.
Because she kills him. And pulls a Loranna Bobbett on him. (Look it up, kids!)

While I didn't feel her husband was particularly manipulative other than the standard hit-sorry-flowers-goodboy-hit-sorry-flowers routine, I don't want to judge. An abuse victim is trapped in a horrible cycle and I'm not going to blame her for staying or falling for his "charms". But, his manipulations have been exaggerated.

Also, holy crap, what kind of...idiot just randomly goes "I think I'll go rape my daughter. Lookit those tits!" out of absolutely no where?! Sexual predators and child molesters are more cunning, devious, and opportunistic than that. Just...ugh.

She’s got one thing going for her, the one thing she truly owns. Mazie has moxie to the bone. But will it be enough?

No, she doesn't! She's utterly clueless how to survive on her own. She doesn't even think to dye her eyebrows to match her hair colour so everyone can tell it's fake. She doesn't realize that her "nosy neighbour" was once abused herself even though the signs are clearly there, or maybe it was just predictable, I don't know.

Her survival is dependent on kind souls that never question her and just give her free stuff or the means of a life. Like coffee. And rides. And jobs. And apartments. And lawyer services. And house brokering.

The middle of the book becomes a redundant cycle of "Dining establishment, oh no a cop! oh good the cop's gone with no reason to suspect anyone of anything, motel time!, dining establishment."
This happens about three times, all while name dropping Tim Hortons, and by the way, Canada, amirite? Canada. Tim Bits. Canada. Double double.

It became irritating and I'm Canadian!

The new love interest, because of course there's a new love interest, actually creeped me out more than the abusive wanna-be rock star husband. He came across as a Nice Guy who inserted himself into Mazie's new life because he felt he would be good for her and just couldn't see it. So he had to be nicer. Eventually she'd come around. Also, his name was Norman. Do not name your Nice Guy Norman. Especially when your heroine is running from the law and a secret and is shacking up in motels.

Just sayin'.

Overall, not great. I've seen this story done before, and done better.

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