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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Monday, 9 November 2015

Review: Obsidian Worlds

Obsidian Worlds Obsidian Worlds by Jason Werbeloff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was given this book for free in exchange for an honest review

I'm a new fan of Werbeloff's. I very much enjoyed Hedon and was happy to receive an advanced reader's copy of Obsidian Worlds, a collection of Werbeloff's short stories.

There's not a single filler story in here. While some stories are better than others, they're all good. Each story feels unique and imaginative.

I can't say any of the stories were weak, but I can say my personal favourite was Bleed Me Silicone. The shortest story in the whole collection, it's about the life-span of a specific inanimate object, and it's surprisingly poignant. I would give that particular short 5 stars.

Also, Werbeloff writes one hell of a migraine. He described it so vividly that, as someone who suffers from migraines, I got a little queasy. Interesting opening to a book.

If I had to give a negative, I suppose I could say that some stories are a tiny bit predictable but they're written and told well, so it's not an issue. Nothing feels overlong or beats you over the head with it's message. In fact, I think one or two could be even longer. I have so many unanswered questions about one particular story. How did the world get into that situation?! Yes, I know I'm being vague, but it's to avoid spoilers.

It's a good little buffet if you're not sure where to begin with Werbeloff's stuff. It has a bit of everything thrown into it and it all feels quite satisfying. I recommend it.

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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Book Review: Hedon by Jason Werbeloff

Hedon Hedon by Jason Werbeloff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the best things about having a Kindle is the free offers that are constantly flung onto the internet. This lets me take a chance on a book I've never heard of before, by an author I've also never head before, at no cost to myself except for time.

That's how we find the diamond in the rough.

Hedon is a creative take on the overpopulation themed post-apocalypse. It's REPO! The Genetic Opera meets Logan's Run, complete with life or death games for the amusement of the masses, and repossession of things one would think cannot be repossessed. In this case, memories.

The year is 2051 and for the good of the world, society has been divided into two castes, separated by a wall. On one side is the metropolis known as Shangri. Filled with brothels and opium dens and porn, people can live like kings, as long as they're happy and spread that happiness around.
On the other side is where the destitute live, the Breeders. Those who must make the best with what they have.

When married Breeder couple Cyan and Gemini win the lottery and are allowed access to Shangri and permission to have a child, they think their dreams come true...

The author has created a vivid world, filled out by great characters. Each are distinct with rich back stories that are gradually pieced together. The villain is interesting and a relentless force.

It's unpredictable. I don't mean that there are twists for the sake of twists, I mean that where the story begins and where it ends are two very different places, but the progression of events are fluid and organic.

The economics of the world are interesting. The more good deeds you do, the more altruism points you get. Then you can spend those, your hedons, for pleasure. But never take more than you give, or the Tax Man will come to collect.

The idea of forced homosexuality, while not unique, is interesting. Especially if you assume it's a natural outgrowth of "What if homosexuality is a biological switch nature flicked on to control the population?"

There were a few tiny things that caught in my craw though.

Every time I read "hedon", I followed it up with "Apply directly to the forehead". This is my problem and I need to deal with it in my own way.

There was a character called Mascara because of his heavy mascara. No one knew his name so he was described as "Mascara", as one would say "the boy" or "The tall man". Later, he introduces himself to another character and says his name is Mascara. It just threw me a bit because up until that point the author was doing a good job keeping things like that in check.

Some of the violence was to cartoonish levels with very little commentary. People are slaughtered left and right like the Unstoppable Juggernaught was racing through and nothing...happened. No commentary on the slaughter, no people mourning, no "My cabbages!", nothing.

None of these things were too much to distract from my enjoyment of the story though. A solid, fun, at times depressing, story. I recommend it for those who love dystopia but need it drawn with a new set of crayons.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Book Review: Americosis Vol.1 by Haydn Wilks

Americosis Vol. IAmericosis Vol. I by Haydn Wilks
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I received this story for free in exchange for an honest review.

I was contacted with regards to this novelette by the author, who compared it favorably to my absolute favourite novel John Dies At the End. At first I was going to pass by the request but hey, it was short and another Goodreads friend was reading it. Plus, I really, really liked the title.

I don't have a lot to say.

I didn't care for this story.

A third of it feels like someone from Idiocracy is trying to re-write a Warren Ellis story, another third feels like soft-core porn, and the final third feels like the author is bored with this part, and wants to get to the good stuff. Which will be in book 3 or something.

There was absolutely no humour, unless gigantically endowed men are automatically funny. There was one joke, but it made me sneer with fake laughter. Not the intended reaction.

There was no heart, a woman's sister is killed and she doesn't acknowledge it. A bunch of little children are brutally slaughtered and no one sheds a tear. Characters are name dropped out of the blue with no description or reason for being there. I'm looking at you, Ted.

I am vaguely interested in the body snatching demon, but not how the book suddenly goes into "It is YOU who are the monster!" mode.

Is this absurdest literature? Is that just not my thing? I've read a couple of absurdest stories, John Dies... and it's sequel, but more recently, Sociopaths in Love, which I liked for the most part.

And did I really, really just read the phrase "Inner goddess"?

Can we keep the Inner Goddess locked up in Christian Grey's Red Room, please?

I feel bad about this review, because Haydn, you seem like a nice dude. No hard feelings, keep doing you.

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