Thursday, 23 November 2017

Book Review: What the Hell Did I Just Read? By David Wong

What the Hell Did I Just Read?
By David Wong

★★/★★★★★
While investigating a fairly straightforward case of a shape-shifting interdimensional child predator, Dave, John and Amy realized there might actually be something weird going on. Together, they navigate a diabolically convoluted maze of illusions, lies, and their own incompetence in an attempt to uncover a terrible truth they -- like you -- would be better off not knowing.

(Hey look, a new review format!)

I'm...confused. Not in a good way.

John Dies At the End is one of my favourite books, constantly wrestling for #2 spot with HOUSE of Leaves. I can still quote from that book. I remember laughing at a line but then something horrific would happen and my laughter would morph into a horrified whimper. I still have mental images from that book.  

This Book is Full of Spiders, Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It was good, but it wasn't amazing. I still remember vividly one or two scenes and I was sympathetic to characters we would never see again.  

What The Hell Did I Just Read has none of the charm or the memorable moments of the previous two books. Nothing will stick in my brain. Did I laugh? Yes. I know I did, but I cannot remember when or why. I even liked Wong's previous book Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits more than this.

I did feel something for the book, and that was horror and dismay when I realized durring the last 75% of the book that I was annoyed with it. I was annoyed with a JDATE book! How can that be?

Characters felt out of character, especially John. He was not twitchy-crazy enough and way too self-aware. On the last few pages he just sort of gets really level headed and it felt off.

And then there's Amy. Amy was my favourite character in the previous two books but in this one, she apparently dropped a few IQ points. She became this idiotic hen-pecking, weepy know-it-all shrew and I absolutely could not stand her. She should know by now not to trust her eyes after what she's been through but nope. She's gonna trust her eyes and act with her heart instead of her head, even though the fate of the world is at stake. Again.

Also, there's this weird thread regarding one of the creatures that I felt both came out of nowhere and was left dangling. I'm sure maybe if I take the time to think about it I could piece it together, but I don't feel like exerting the effort.

A disappointing adventure featuring characters I used to love but now just feel ill-fitting.

BUY A COPY

Monday, 18 September 2017

Review: The Crimson Meniscus

The Crimson Meniscus The Crimson Meniscus by Jason Werbeloff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an advanced copy of this anthology in exchange for an honest review.

Here we are again, reviewing another Jason Werbeloff book!
Another great collection from a great author. To be fair I had already read about half of the shorts in this anthology, but the entire collection is very good.

All together, each story does its part in expanding the world of The Bubble, a future utopia nestled inside a force-field, a shimmering blister-pack surrounded by squalor. The whole world feels like a more polished, refined version of the worlds in his previous novels Hedon (Read my review on my Blog) and The Solace Pill (Read my review on my Blog). Each story gives a little tidbit of info, which culminates into all the facts the reader needs while reading the novella Defragmenting Daniel.

Defragmenting Daniel is a fascinating, gory tale. Exciting, gruesome, uncomfortable, with a protagonist that personally felt very sympathetic toward. Not everyone has all their organs, you go to get yours, Daniel!

It’s a good anthology, filled with creative ideas, and a unique mix of humour, gore and horror.



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Sunday, 17 September 2017

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
I'm actually nervous to write this review. This book has a reputation, and it was recommended to me by people who's taste I trust. My friend and I wanted to do a little mini book club, and the movie coming out, we picked it up.

I finished this book weeks ago but I've been struggling with how to write the review. Suffice to say, I didn't like it.

Other people have explained better why they didn't like it, so I feel like I'd just be repeating things that have already been said.

I was born in the early 80's. I have a sibling who is over 10 years older and I am, so I was exposed to music and movies earlier than I probably should have been. My parents were hippies, so my media consumption for the first decade of my life was Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, David Bowie, Traveling Wilburys, Laura Brannigan, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince and Willie Nelson. I grew up with The Dark Crystal (One of my top 5 movies of all time), Footloose, Flashdance, The Breakfast Club, Moving Violations, Labyrinth, Never-Ending Story, Dragonslayer, Willow, Don Bluth, John Hughes, ET, and Flight of Dragons (The second top 5 movie of all time).

My foster families were The Bundys and The Connors.

See what I did? I listed a bunch of things. Can I have a publishing contract now?

Let's take away the references, don't worry, we'll get back to them, but for now let's just talk about the writing.

The characters are paper thin or racial stereotypes, everything just happens with no real struggle or stakes, the lead character is directly responsible for the death of hundreds of people and he barely thinks about it. The internal logic of the world doesn't work, on page one we learn both there's a global energy crisis but also a global MMO that almost everyone is almost always playing. They even do schooling through it.

The writing consists of lines like:

"After five long years, the Copper Key had finally been found, by an eighteen-year-old kind living in a trailer park in the outskirts of Oklahoma City. That kid was me."

Then a few pages later it goes on a huge info dump about how God doesn't exist.

Then, after that, after telling us how his laptop has access to everything ever made, all books, music, movies, everything, his laptop is destroyed. Oh no, right? Conflict! Stakes! He lost everything!
One paragraph later he explains how he has two more laptops hidden in his hideout. He could have, you know, walked to his hideout and let the reader wonder what he was going to do, and it could have been shown as a reveal. Instead, we're told. The whole book is like this.

Oh, he also describes what his avatar looks like while looking into a mirror.

We’re told Art3mis is a great, funny, insightful writer but never read any of her blog posts.

Also, can I just point out that his name is Wade Owen Watts? WOW.

When it’s not telling instead of showing, it sounds remarkably out of touch in a “Hello, fellow kids!” way.

Aech: Top o’ the morning, amigo.
Parzival: Hola, compadre,
Aech: What are you up to?
Parzival: Just serving the turf. You?
Aech: Got the Basement online. Come and hang out before school, fool.
Parzival: Sweet! I’ll be there in a sec.


or

“Everyone began calling them the Sixers. These days, most gunters referred to them as “the Sux0rz” (Because they sucked.)”


Also, no one calls XP “Xps”. That’s one of the many many notes I made. Specifically my note was “No one calls it that. Are you on drugs?”

I have made many, many notes in my Kindle over this book. So far in this review I have only touched on 11% of the book.

Now, to the references.

A lot of reviews have said the book is basically author wish fulfillment. "What if everyone liked what I liked?" And they're right.

I write. I have characters. Some of my characters like some of the same things I like. It's a staple of their personality. But, it's not ALL my characters and it's not ALL they like nor is it ALL the things I like.

There's a scene in Ready Player One where Wade is inside a giant robot. Inside the giant robot is an 8-track player that was retroactively programmed into an otherwise exact replica of the giant robot’s cockpit, with 8-track tapes. Wade puts in AC/DC.

My personal kick-ass-and-take-names song is The Gears by Dethklok. If I am doing a final battle with the prize being a bajillion dollars and ownership of the biggest company on the planet, you BET I'M going to listen to MY kick-ass-and-take-names song. Screw your likes and your aesthetic and your quirks. This, for me, for Wade, is a life-changing moment. It's The Gears or nothing.

And that's the thing. People are nuanced. I like Dethklok, I like Alice Cooper's albums from the 80's, 90’s and now but I don't like Alice Cooper's early albums. I like many things, and the internet is vast and full of billions of people who all like many things. The idea of the entire Internet fawning over the 80s is unbelievable. The OASIS was established as a place of infinite possibilities and the limit was your own imagination. But nope. 70’s and 80’s everywhere.

If this is truly the holy grail of geekdom, well, I thought we were better than this? More well-read than this? We have LOTRs and ASOIAF on our shelves. Harry Potter, Watchmen, The Killing Joke, World War Z, meticulous D&D Monster Manuals. We’re sticklers for world building and internal logic and flair for words.

How did this get such high praise?

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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Review: Jem and the Holograms: The Misfits

Jem and the Holograms: The Misfits Jem and the Holograms: The Misfits by Kelly Thompson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great series of vignettes that delve deeper into who the Misfits are and how they came to be. It takes old tales from the cartoon and gives them a little remix, while still staying true, as well as some new stories. Highly recommended for fans of the old cartoon or the reboot comic.

I especially love Roxy and Jetta's friendship. They were my two favourite characters growing up and having them be a kick-ass duo is really fun.

The authors knew exactly what fans wanted and how to adapt it to modern day. A perfect reboot.

Get it on Amazon.

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Monday, 12 June 2017

Review: Thrawn

Thrawn Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked it, it was good, and as always, Thrawn is a badass character.

But, it sort of...went nowhere? What was the point of the meeting at the end of Chapter 29? How are Pryce's actions going to tie into the first season of Star Wars Rebels? I somewhat feel like her story didn't even need to be told and we could focus soley on Thrawn, focus more on his exile, and get a little more nuance in his rise up the ranks of the Empire and deal more with the Nightswan mystery.

The big mystery at the start of this was obvious. (Gee, where could all this metal be going? Could they be building a ship? Hmm....)

I was murky on Nightswan's purpose and Thrawn's focus on it.

So many lip twists. Along with "Stomach tightened.", Oh Zahn, you do you.

But Thrawn himself is great as always and it was nice to get focus on him again. He really is a brilliant tactician, which is proved time and time again through actions instead of words.

As always, Marc Thompson is a great narrator, but Pryce's mother's voice was grating as all Hell. Also a voice near the end was weird as well.

So, 3 stars. I guess.

Buy it on Amazon
Buy Audiobook. Buy ebook. Buy Hardcover.


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Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Review: Crash & Burn

Crash & Burn Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Too convoluted. It was rife with twists for the sake of twists. There's a limit to how many shocking twists one can take before the story becomes an overwrought soap opera.

The characters were fine, and Gardner is a good writer which made the experience tolerable. A shame because I really, really liked her book The Killing Hour.

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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Review: Ahsoka

Ahsoka Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As I've previously made mention in my Star Wars : Dark Disciple review, I was never a fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars tv show. It just didn't appeal to me. However, I love Star Wars: Rebels and Ahsoka plays a key part in that series.

This novel details how Ahsoka got from the end of Clone Wars, to her place in the Rebellion.

And, it's fine. It's a young adult book, so simplicity is to be expected.

The story is simple, but servicable. The supporting cast are quite bland. I kept getting male characters mixed up as they had no real difference between them. One had a twin sister, but which one? I was unsure of everyone's age, except for the 14 year old. Are they teenagers or in their 20s?

The friendship between Ahsoka and Kaeden was sweet though, and rife with subtext.

I listened to the audiobook, as that seems to be my thing now, and the audiobook was fine. It wasn't stellar like previous Star Wars audiobooks, though. It was narrated by Ahsoka's voice actor, which was a neat touch, but sometimes she just announciates a little too much. Some of the sound effects for flavour also seemed not top notch, or placed awkwardly.

It's not bad, and young Star Wars fans will probably love it, but I think I wanted something a little deeper.

Get it on Amazon
Get the ebook Get the Hardcover Get the paperback Get the Audiobook

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Thursday, 23 March 2017

Review: Specter of the Past: Star Wars (The Hand of Thrawn): Book I

Specter of the Past: Star Wars (The Hand of Thrawn): Book I Specter of the Past: Star Wars (The Hand of Thrawn): Book I by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I dropped this 3 hours and 10 minutes into the audiobook.

I was very excited for this book. Unfortunately, I read a plot synopsis and I just found the conceit of this book dumb.

The actual Hand of Thrawn is a disappointment.

The character of Flim is aggravating, which I guess is the point but I'm not putting up with it.

I was intrigued by Teirce because up until that point, I had never read about a character in the Royal Guard. (You know, those red soldiers that flank important people in the Empire.)

It has too much of the character Mazzik, which wouldn't be so bad if Marc Thompson hadn't decided to give him this weedily Woody Allan voice. He's a bounty hunter! I shouldn't be picturing Woody Allan!

In about 3 hours of the audiobook, there were roughly 10 "lip twists". Everyone's lip was twisting, or they felt their lip twist.

I'm still looking forward to Timothy Zahn's upcoming Thrawn book, but The Hand of Thrawn Duology isn't something I want to sink my time into.

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Monday, 13 March 2017

Review: Dark Disciple: Star Wars

Dark Disciple: Star Wars Dark Disciple: Star Wars by Christie Golden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

***This Review Contains Spoilers. You Have Been Warned***

when Dooku orders the massacre of a flotilla of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council feels it has no choice but to take drastic action: targeting the man responsible for so many war atrocities, Count Dooku himself.
But the ever-elusive Dooku is dangerous prey for even the most skilled hunter. So the Council makes the bold decision to bring both sides of the Force’s power to bear—pairing brash Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos with infamous one-time Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress.


This novel is adapted from a series of unproduced Clone Wars scripts. While I'm a huge fan of the currently running cartoon Star Wars Rebels, I'm actually not a fan of Star Wars: Clone Wars. I've only seen a handful of episodes and it never really grabbed me, though it did flesh out some great characters, like Cad Bane and Assaj Ventris.

I picked this up because while discussing with a family member if Thrawn would survive through Rebels, he mentioned Ventris was still alive by the time Episode 3 came along. So I googled and spoiled myself. But I wanted to know more so I found this book.

Since Clone Wars has things it needs to reconcile with Episode 3, any stories from this era are tacitly locked to a track of this has to happen or this cannot happen because of, well, cannon. Obviously, Vos will not be successful in assassinating Count Dooku because of how Episode 3 opens. So, we have to look at this story as a character study for Ventris and Vos.

As a character study, it's very good. It peels through Ventris' hard personal defenses and her trauma, and it does a good job leading Vos to the darker side of the Force and really made his fall excruciating and gradual. And tricky.

I even enjoyed this book more than The Thrawn Trilogy, simply for the writing. It didn't rely on crutches ("Thrawn's glowing red eyes glittered...", "So and so's lip twisted" again and again and again. It should be a drinking game.)

I listened to the audiobook edition and it was, as always, very high quality. Once more read by Marc Thompson, these audiobooks are exceptional. No voice seemed off or grating.

If you're a fan of Star Wars, even just casually, you should give this a try. If you're a fan of Clone Wars or Rebels, and you haven't read this yet, stop reading this review and order it right now!

Get it on Amazon
Get the ebook Get the Hardcover Get the paperback Get the Audiobook

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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Review: Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So for some reason I decided to read Gillian Flynn's novels in reverse order, having disliked Gone Girl, enjoyed Dark Places and then this one, which I picked up because various reviews of both of Flynn's other books liked to mention how all of Flynn's protagonists are messed up and disturbing and disturbed.

I expected something like Warren Ellis, I got something like SVU.

This super disturbing protagonist? She's a cutter (oooh edgy! No pun intended) who cuts words in her body, and those words burn and tingle at opportune and suitable times. Like a sixth sense or something. She thinking about her dead little sister? The word "Bundle" will throb. When she's not lamenting about her word-scars, she goes on and on about how beautiful her face is.

It was ridiculous.

I didn't get the interested until over 50% of the way into the book. Far too late into it for it to grab me.

The actual mystery was obvious, but also confusing at the same time. Then the actual details of how the crimes were committed were explained by the narrator after the fact. Not TO the narrator by the killer. Show. Don't Tell.

Finally, I listened to the audiobook. It was fine, but I found the narrator to be too gentle and soft spoken to carry the text and characters. She has a lovely, calm voice and is very expressive, just too soft for this particular story.

Skip it. There are better mysteries out there.

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Friday, 24 February 2017

Concert "Review" - Rishloo

Once, back in the days when Last.FM was free for Canadians, because I like TOOL and Pink Floyd, a little song came across my stream called Freaks & Animals by a hitherto unknown by me band called Rishloo.

I've been an ardent fan ever since. Quickly they claimed a top 5 bands spot in my personal listing and became one of my Bucket List bands.

I was lucky enough to snag a friend willing to brave the bad side of town and the cold to go see them with me last night.

It was very enjoyable, in a small bar where most seating space was taken up by pool tables and a "dance" floor. They played mostly recent songs, but they did play Omega and, more importantly, El Empe, which is a personal favourite of mine. We all sang along to Dark Charade (Yes, you can actually sing along to that song. Suprise!). Their rendition of Dead Rope Machine was amazing, as was their live version of Winslow.

Their set was too short, running just over an hour, and I regret not buying a t-shirt, but all in all I, and everyone else there thrashing around in the venue are very happy!


So, unofficially I've seen all my Bucket List bands. My list will probably never be complete since Poe is no longer able to do music, but I've seen Alice Cooper, Nick Cave, AC/DC, Rolling Stones, Dethklok and now Rishloo.

And then I found out Katatonia is coming. One more to add to the List.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Review: Dark Places

Dark Places Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee.

I found this immensely more enjoyable than Gone Girl, which is also by Gillian Flynn, simply for the fact I didn't want to punt characters in the face with my foot.

The characters are all fully fleshed out, fairly nuanced, with sides and angles and depth. I liked Libby, I liked Ben and the characters I was not supposed to like, I had reasons not to like them beyond "because they are a narcissistic sociopath".

There were some spots that annoyed me. For instance, there were two sequential chapters had two different characters in two different settings being all cagey and evasive and talking around things instead of about things. Up until this point, everyone had been pretty forthright and the mystery was just mysterious because of missing pieces, not because of willful obfuscation. It felt very both very soap-opera-ish and also like its sole purpose was for padding.

Also, the mystery was kind of obvious but I was alright with that because the characters kept my interest.

The audiobook was quite well done, with a pair of narrators that were clear and emotive.

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Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Review: The Last Command

The Last Command (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy, #3)The Last Command by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the third part of The Thrawn Trilogy. You can read my reviews for the Start Wars: Heir to the Empire and Star Wars: Dark Force Rising on my blog.

Shenanigans! Delta source was a cop out! I refuse! I remain steadfast that Delta Source is (view spoiler) and I stand by that!

Anyway, it was still good, if a little underwhelming. Or, again, maybe I missed something, like how a certain character received information in order to realize he was betrayed. Apparently all the details of that are in a "sourcebook" somewhere. I shouldn't have to read extended materials to get a vital plot point.

I love Aves. The narrator used a sort of Christian Slater voice for him and for some reason I found that very endearing. I love Aves.

Mara was less annoying, the final conflict came to a head really, really well, production of the audiobook is still superb.

A nice way to tie it all together, though flawed.



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Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Review: vena cava: an inferior novelette

vena cava: an inferior novelette vena cava: an inferior novelette by Mikey Neumann
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I discovered this little story through Mikey Neumann's Movies with Mikey Youtube series, which I very highly recommend. Go watch it now.

Given the humour in those videos, and the humor in Borderlands and Borderlands 2 which he also wrote, I expected something more like David Wong or Palahniuk.

This was not that.

What it turned out to be was a rather predictable short story filled with not very interesting characters. Attempts at showing fatherly love weren't especially touching or affecting and I sort of hated the three college girls.

I was let down.

Guess I'll stick with Mikey's reviews.

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