Monday, September 12, 2016

Need something strange in your life?

Strange History by Bathroom Reader's Institute

How about strange facts from history? They'll brighten your day and give you something to read in between those reading slumps.  Here's a tidbit; an ancient Olympian won the gold medal while already deceased! You know you want to find out more.

From Uncle John, here is a collection of assorted facts from all of time. I really found this to be the exact level of entertainment I was expecting.  I needed something that would give me a little refresh between the fiction.  Plus, I found the tidbits of history to be really interesting.  Many were even snort while reading amusing. And then again, some were just really poignant statements.  A truly great blend of historical strangeness.

Now to insert my moment of honesty, I don't recall many of the facts I read because I wasn't trying to use this like a textbook to learn anything.  I just wanted some quick reading that would clear the fantasy cobwebs. There is plenty of trivia in here for those who like to cram it away for that weekend bar challenge, though.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

It's a book release day!

Today the excellent middle grade novel The Changelings hits store shelves.  It's published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.  How could I not request it with that referral? (Twas brillig and the slithy toves...)

The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat

This book was a fabulous middle grade adventure ride. The set-up for the novel makes it accessible to many readers.  The pacing flows at just the right speed to keep a young reader drawn to the story.  I was able to get through the whole tale in a lazy Sunday. There are also all kinds of interactive extras while you read over at the publisher website.

There was nothing groundbreaking here, the land and characters come from the classic fairy tale fables.  The author didn't try to update them or morph them into a hybrid of any kind.  She left them alone to be what they naturally are.  The innocence at this reading level is just so refreshing.  I wish I found it more often in adult fiction to be honest.

The characters had depth and personality.  I enjoyed every character that crossed Izzy's path, even the ones you're not supposed to like.  Not everything is happy all the time in the book, but there is fun and adventure that saves the day. I just always had to find out what was around the corner. The interactions between the group kept you turning pages as well.

The story is a non-stop ride of adventure. I just wanted to be a part of it. The ending even concluded with some hopeful openings of possible adventures in the future.  I would support those adventures wholeheartedly.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Soleil, so long

This is the post I should have put up last week, but I've just been dreading it.  I am disappointed to have to be doing this review, but now you can't believe anything other than I'm honest about all the books I read.

Soleil by Jacqueline Garlick

I was so stoked for this book.  "The Illumination Paradox" started as an incredible series.  The world was a new kind of apocalyptic dystopia. The diseases were unique with a slight touch of steampunk, and the characters had an air of disturbing that is just on the correct level of creepy.  I honestly felt like this series had something special to it.  I was eagerly awaiting the third book.  My super nerd reached critical mass when the author announced that book three would be in our hands on Harry Potter's birthday!

Then, Soleil published.  Then, my heart broke.  The first chapter was an editing nightmare.  I have learned from previous novels this does not get better, but I wanted the conclusion to the adventures of Eyelet and Urlick so I steamed ahead.  My heart broke a second time.  Not only was the text grammatically butchered, the flow had lost all it's spunk.  The story line had skipped into full throttle bull rush passed all the wit and sass that made this series start strong.  And then... Yes, and then, we literally (nerd bonus for actually getting to use this word correctly) fell down the rabbit hole.

Really? This wonderfully unique series had to fall down a flipping rabbit hole!  Don't get me wrong, I love Alice in Wonderland, but I really do not love the over abundance of authors using it as a crutch.  Write something original!  But, back to the review.  After we escape that hell, we are reintroduced to Eyelet and Urlick bumbling through their story.  The ending was something I had so looked forward to, and I was crushed.  I would have dedicated all that time in wonderland wannabe to Limpidious (the world you created author!), the world I wanted to know about because that was the unique story that brought be back to each book.

All right, that was brutal. Let's hit some positives. There were some truly emotional moments and a little bit of sap. I did not hate the book;  I was just truly disappointed.  Maybe writing one book a month is not a good goal to set yourself.  Soleil sadly paid the price for this ambition.  I kind of want my $3 back.  Maybe we'll get an updated copy some day that can at least redeem the plethora of grammatical errors.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Stan Lee makes a Chinese restaurant placemat

I have read several graphic novels and mangas at this point, and thoroughly enjoyed them, I thought it was time I attempted comics again.  You may remember I previously mentioned wanting to get into the nerd culture of comics as I am a fan so many other nerd cultures staples.  I dipped my toes in the manga market with series I was familiar with through anime; a pretty safe starting point.  Then, I received a couple of graphic novels from Netgalley, and they have been utterly fantastic in their stories -- even if the art wasn't my match.  This go around I requested something by a true, blue comic king -- Stan Lee.

The Zodiac Legacy #1 by Stuart Moore

Stan Lee created a new universe of comic characters with writer Stuart Moore.  They wanted an edgy Asian twist to their superheroes.  Each character has the power associated with an animal of the Chinese zodiac.  There are a series of books and a set of matching graphic novels.  I picked up the graphic novel from Netgalley. I like East meet West kind of literature.  Let's give is a shot.

My impression -- Captain Planet meets a fortune cookie.  The story line wasn't completely horrible, it was just super cheesy like Captain Planet. A group of random teenagers out to make the world a better place.  It just screams 90s cartoon.  Plus, the art kept my mind there too, bright colors and clothing styles all inspired by the era that put  fluorescent accents on everything.  The artwork was actually the piece I liked best about this novel.

Maybe that should be my indicator.  If I like the art style, I'm going to be in for a flop of a story.  The previous two graphic novels I've read have not been visually to my liking, but I really enjoyed the character development and plot.  Here the artwork plays to my nostalgic sensibilities, but the story liked any character depth.  All we learn about the gang our their powers.  Which don't get me wrong, they are super cool, but I want to know more about the characters.  Their individual stories just seemed to be lost but very important.

Honestly, if I need an Asian flair mixed in with my very Western mindset, I'll stick to my all time favorite Avatar: The Last Airbender.  This series really just did not engage me.  Now, other people may absolutely not feel the same way towards this series.  It might be right in the wheelhouse of what they are looking for in their East meets West agenda. To those, I say pick it up and try it out.  But maybe at your local library first.  The price tag is a little hefty for the risk of not enjoying this graphic novel.  To get more hyped up for the series, check out their website.

Monday, August 15, 2016

2-for-1 make up post

My, my. I've done it again. I've vanished for quite some time this time, but I promise I have a good reason. I got a job. A very cool job. A full-time copy editor job. This means my posts will become sporadic again as my time for reading becomes divided even further. I promise I'll make the reviews that do get posted count.

I also have been reading some non-fiction books that don't fit the review style I have built on this website. These books weren't about enjoying them or wanting to pick them up time and again. They were about learning and expanding. If you would be interested in the same kind of discovery, I'll give you some information and let you on your way.

Becoming Worldy Saints by Michael Wittmer

The first of the non-fiction books I read to help with some clarity. I find a strong pull to study the different religions of the world to understand where each side of the argument is coming from.  This piece highlighted some good points on Christianity. A worthwhile read for sure. The author wasn't preachy which could easily be over achieved in a religious text. The information was provided to guide you to your own conclusions.

I have some people in mind who need to read this. It was quick to get through and really left a lasting impression.

The Norse Shaman by Evelyn Rysdyk

I just ended up having too many personal issues with this book. I can't recommend it. Never will. 

But some information for those who may not be so inclined. It is a source book for shamanic journeys of the 21st century. There is some history sprinkled in there to instill an appreciation for such an old belief system and in-depth guidance on shamanic practices.

But I found the focus of the dissertation to be all wrong. I picked it up based on a description for learning how the old became the new. I ended up very disappointed and 25% unfinished.

Again, two non-fiction pieces I spent with the last month. I'm back on track to reading some light fiction and will have two good reviews for you hopefully this week, but don't hold it against me if I miss my deadline. I will get them posted before another month goes by as summer is winding down, and my mountain requires a lot less attention.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Because Gold Cat just wouldn't sound as good

I hope everyone had an excellent Independence Day, and the digit count remains at 20. I know we had a blast (hehe, pun) here attempting to make more noise then our neighbors. Living on the top of a mountain has some serious perks. Cleaning up from the celebrations the next day made me a little late for the release of The Copper Promise by Jen Williams. Catch the review below.

The Copper Promise by Jen Williams

I clicked request without really knowing much about the premise of this novel for two reasons. 1.) Angry Robot Books--I have really enjoyed every author I have read from them so far. Their selection for publication is pretty top notch. 2.) The description included mages, monsters, and gods. My kind of fantasy.

Now, when I started to read the novel, I felt an instant disconnection. I'm not really sure why. The story just didn't seem to fit the description for the novel I had requested. Maybe I was in a completely separate mindset from when I hit the request button. This does not make the book terrible; it just meant I had a loss of interest to overcome. And I did--when a giant dragon popped out of the ground. Not what I was expecting from the rather vague depiction of "monsters" in the teaser.

We go adventuring with Wydrin (aka The Copper Cat), Sir Sebastian (the exiled knight), Gallo (the charmer), and Lord Frith (the dead prince who isn't quite dead). A pretty typical gang for an epic fantasy quest. While the crew is pretty textbook, there are some interesting elements to the magic that keep it in the house of epic fantasy without being completely overplayed. There are creatures with an intriguing dynamic (hello brood army, I'm talking to you). And then there were some elements I could have completely done without for purely personal reasons. 

The novel has a clear conclusion to the misadventures of the epic questor, but the story has clearly been left open for some sequels. The plot has movement and multiple points of climax which sort of turned anti-climatic for me. You really can't go wrong if you are looking for some swashbuckling, magic-ridden fun. Overall, 3 stars for the initial effort; let's see what book two brings to the table.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Like sands through an hourglass...

It is July. The heat is rising. The fireflies are out in droves to the accompaniment of a cricket orchestra every night. Corn on the cob. Grills. The summer season has really begun. Click on the Book Giveaway tab to grab yourself what I would consider to be the perfect summer read-- Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina. The tenth novel in the series is due this fall so get started now.

White Sand by Brandon Sanderson

It is no secret that I am a massive Sanderson fan. A friend of mine recommended the "Mistborn" trilogy back in high school, and I have been reading ever since. When I first began the books, it was not apparent that all the different series and stand-alones he was producing would be connected. A decade later and readers have been informed by Sanderson that there is a bigger picture--Cosmere. It is all connected. The lands and magics. They all come from something larger than any individual series. That scope--that is amazing.

He has written middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, fantasy, epic fantasy, and he even completed the "Wheel of Time" series. Now, he is trying his hands at graphic novels. It seems impossible that any reader could not be a fan of Sanderson. He has a format for anyone. White Sand enters the graphic novel scene with a new set of characters plus some others previously introduced--but don't worry, you won't need to know any of it as all of his stories can stand alone despite their unity. 

I'll be honest; it is not my favorite of his endeavors. Sanderson builds a mighty picture. He is a man of words. Graphic novels just do not have the space for the kind of set up I expect out of Sanderson. BUT; I was very aware of this when I requested to read the Advanced Copy. 

The overall read was not disappointing. 5 stars for the layout, graphic style, color palette, and all that artsy stuff. The introduction of the characters and conspiracy were just a little crunched for me. For what is there, it is Sanderson level 100% and certainly worthy of 3 stars. Sanderson magic systems just hook you in with their depth and viability--sand mastery included. Total package is 3.5 stars and certainly on my recommended reading list. An absolute must for Brandon Sanderson fans.