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.

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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!

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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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Saturday, 17 December 2016

Review: Scorn of Angels

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

Nyx, Queen of Hell, lies broken and burning in a box at the bottom of the Lake of Fire. Her companions, Persephone and Ishtar, were captured and are now suffering unspeakable torture. Lucifer, once Nyx’s second-in-command, has taken over Hell and is ruling with a depraved will and an iron fist. And on Earth, Arcana, Angel of Heaven, has arrived a thousand years too late.

And that’s just for a start.

Now the Angels in Heaven and the Queen of Hell must join forces to defeat a greater power than any of them have ever faced, and at stake is the very existence of Creation, and of God himself!

You can read my review of the first book, Plague of Angels on my blog.

3.5 stars but Goodreads doesn't allow for such things.

I liked this. I enjoyed it, and it still feels like an original and unique take on God and Christianity. Nyx is still bad-ass and her allies are interesting, her enemies formidable and the stakes incredibly high.

But, I wasn't as pulled in as I was last time. One thing I loved about the first book was the manipulative love Tribunal used to string Nyx along, but that wasn't in this book, for obvious reasons. Also the book takes place in roughly the year 1000AD yet characters sound very modern, spouting out "This sucks!" and swearing left and right. It's almost unfair to say that, because the first book was guilty of that too but I guess I had less to latch onto in this book and noticed the flaws more.

Still, I found myself very intrigued about how the heroes would escape impossible situations, save themselves and all of Creation. The subplot with the four Archangles was eerie and interesting.

I liked it. It's not high brow philosophy or anything, but it was enjoyable and a satisfying conclusion to the story.

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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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