Friday, May 17, 2019

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception

8130012Nobody is smarter than Artemis Fowl.  And that might just be a good thing for Holly Short this time.  She is going to need the boy genius to save all of fairy civilization from the ultimate arch nemesis.

Another fantastic addition to the Artemis Fowl series.  Quick paced and fun to read, these novels are an excellent selection when I'm looking for lighthearted reads before bed.

While I was once leery to continue this series, I will now see them out to the end.  Even when they have their slow moments, they still fill a purpose in my reading schedule.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer

Image result for The Eternity CodeThere are just times when a middle grade novel is what I need to read.  That is usually after a heavy dose of academic reading.  While Appalachian Reckoning was fascinating and had the ability to spark some very interesting conversation in the house, it was extremely exhausting to read.

Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code was a great way to wind down and relax my brain.  It was entertaining as any other heist story you may come across.  Artemis senior is home and ready to get on the straight and narrow.  This does not sit well with Artemis junior, however.  How are they supposed to keep their vast hordes of gold incoming with legitimate business?

In his final scheme, Artemis plans to make enough gold to keep the status quo.  Our favorite boy genius uses stolen fairy tech to entice the head of the competing big shot to set up the Fowls for life.  Unfortunately, Artemis bites off more than he can chew by trying to swindle one of the most pompous, greedy villains and almost reveals all of fairy existence to a manipulative jerk at the same time.

It becomes incredibly easy to root for the complete destruction of Jon Spiro.  The heist of the century unfolds as Artemis most enlist the help of fairy kind to save Butler and himself from his own miscalculations.

It was a fun, fast-paced read for the quick entertainment I needed after a slog through academia.  The emotions are all over the map on this one, and I just could not put it down.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy by et al.

I had never heard of Hillbilly Elegy.  (I must have been living under a rock or something.)  When Appalachian Reckoning showed up on my Netgalley list, I was instantly interested.  The subject matter is incredibly close to my heart.  I looked up Hillbilly Elegy and read some synopses.  I was aggravated.  My family made the same diaspora from Appalachia to the Rust Belt during the Great Depression.  They moved into the very town Vance worked his way out of.  They lead incredibly similar lives, but we came to very different conclusions on how to handle our situations.

I was very interested to read responses from others who live in the same region.  Were others as offended with Vance's representation as I was, or did I stand alone?  Well, honestly, I got a little more than I bargained for in Appalachian Reckoning.  The first half of the book is a collection of response essays of an academic nature.  The second half is more personal responses in all kinds of literary formats.

The high brow academic section was exhaustive to read.  Lots of citations and little heart.  While it was more than I was looking to read at the time, it was exactly as to be expected with a collection of academic essays.  I was more impressed with the second half of the book.  All in all, various authors made excellent points for and against the concepts Vance preaches to his readers. 

The appeal of reading the responses from people who come from the same place and have led similar lives is just human nature.  That sense of connectivity is something we all seek.  I was drawn to this collection by its subject and relativity to my life.  I kept reading because of the social questions it raised and the intellectual conversation it sparked. 

My brain needed a good workout after lots of fiction reading.  Appalachian Reckoning provided.  This book certainly isn't for everyone, but it should make everyone who takes the time to read it think a great deal on how human nature works.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Lady Mechanika: La Belle Dame sans Merci by Joe Benitoz

45170944What another wonderful segment in the world of Lady Mechanika.  I have absolutely loved this series.  The steampunk ascetic, the myths, the atmosphere, the great characters.  I could absolutely go on to list a hundred things I enjoy about this series.  It makes me understand why people buy serial comics when the subject is something they enjoy so thoroughly.

Volume 4 was becoming a little gruesome and dark as Mr. Lewis confronted his past.  I actually put off reading La Belle Dame sans Merci until it was published as Volume 5 actually.

Mr. Lewis's only solace was at the bottom of a bottle until he meets a beautiful and mysterious widow.  Love is certainly in the air.  But what happens when that love turns deadly?  It's old, reliable friend pitted against an irresistible spark of light.  The emotions are running high and deep in Volume 5. 

The level of fantasy in La Belle Dame sans Merci is over 9,000.  We are talking fairies, people.  The steampunk was very low key this arc, and I'm not hating it.  I felt a complete revitalization for the series.  There is enough mystery and intrigue to the overarching plot to keep me coming back for the next arc.

Can I just say--buy this volume just for the art on page 62.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  It is available now.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett

6567845Rincewind saves my Discworld every time.  He is just priceless.  Our satire this time--the Art of War.  The gods are bored and decide to play a game. 

Fate is playing Imperial China on the verge of the communist revolution.  The Lady decides to counter with the one pawn Fate will never be able to anticipate, the Great Wizzard Rincewind.  The other pawns on the board are Genghiz Cohen, the barbarian invader from the north; Hex, the super conglomeration made by the Unseen wizards; Lord Hong, the dreamer of empires; the Luggage, and little luggage babies (cute!); and the return of the amazing Twoflower, tourist extraordinaire. 

Worlds collide as Cohen tries to civilize up in order to steal the empire, Lord Hong attempts a coup, and Rincewind is magically transported with Unseen University's version of physics.  The amount of fumbling in this novel absolutely restored the humor I had been missing in the last couple novels. 

What excited me the most, however, was the ending.  Instead of being transported back to Ankh-Morpork, Rincewind clearly lands in a Discworld version of the Australian outback.  Which means more novels about Rincewind!  Luck clearly has a great affinity for Rincewind, though I'm sure he doesn't see it that way.

May you live in interesting times.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Myths & Mortals by Charlie Holmberg

We pick up immediately after the face-walloping cliffhanger from Smoke & Summons.  The emotion is high intensity right from the get go and never lets go of your heartstrings.  The raw emotion of Sandis as she puts together the pieces of her life is very intense and a little overwhelming at times.  There is a lot of angst and sense of betrayal.  While being incredibly vivid and real, I actually felt it was a little too much for enjoyable reading at moments.

The action is just as fast-paced and visceral as Smoke & Summons.  Sandis and Rone are on another mad dash around Kolingrad in their ever present struggle against Kazen.  But the game is turned up a notch in Myths & Mortals as Sandis decides to turn her flight into a pursuit.  She is not going to let Kazen make her decisions any more.  She wants to put an end to the non-stop anxiety and restlessness that is dogging her heels.

There are many highs and many lows to be had on the path to her freedom and the world's salvation.  With her new found resolve, Sandis begins to question the order of the universe.  As a devout Celestian, she is an abomination.  But her personal relationship with the vessels and Ireth pulls at her faith.  She is doubtful and seeking.  The answers she has been taught don't seem to clear up any of the questions that are being asked.

This is a book that excellently highlights the struggle of reconciling faith with religious teachings.  I find the title to be incredibly appropriate for the story.  My favorite aspect of this series, though, is the foreshadowing of the conclusion to come--everything we've been taught may not be anything we anticipated to be truth.  And again with the conclusion.  You know it's coming, but it doesn't take away from the moment in any way.

The series is not perfect and perhaps could have been better developed if given more time before publication, but the deep ties to faith and the struggle to believe are too real to nitpick the mortal details.  I can't wait to read Siege & Sacrifice this September.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

19131982I have apparently hit a slump in the Discworld.  The satire has become on the most obvious of topics.  They built this city on music with rocks in it, everyone.  The largest downside to this topic are the references.  I grew up listening to music from bygone days for my age group, but this novel stretched my knowledge of rock history.  It was distracting.

The disasters of fame and fortune are the meat of the satire, but I couldn't get passed trying to figure out which rock stars were being used for cultural reference.  This is entirely a personal problem and may not bother many other readers.  I just have to put the imagery together in my mind.  If you don't have to waste your brain on connecting fiction with fact, then this could be a very entertaining book for you.

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

6567844Gonnes don't kill people; people kill people.  Well if that isn't the most cliche thing I have ever read.  Except this is Discworld, where the gonnes can do the killing for themselves, thank you very much.  While the story of Men at Arms is an incredibly fun read from a character development viewpoint, it disappointed after Lords and Ladies.  I guess that is the hazard of reading the series in publication order.

Captain Vimes is about to retire from the City Watch and marry one of the richest women in Ankh-Morpork.  He will turn his badge in for gentlemanly leisure.  He is looking down the barrel of -- okay, okay, I won't finish that cliche pun.  He faces the vacuum that every person who has dedicated their lives to their career faces with complete denial.  It helps that the largest crime spree Ankh-Morpork has seen is occurring.

There was plenty of humor.  Terry Pratchett has never failed me on that.  I'm just too exhausted of the social satire for this one.  First there is the social dissertation on the dangers of guns and their influence on people.  But we don't stop there.  We are then presented with social politics of species and gender and how to make everyone get along.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Bell Between Worlds by Ian Johnstone

36256552This was recommended by the woman who ran the children's department at the independent bookstore I worked at three years ago.  It got buried in the move, and I'm just now getting around to reading it.  

This book was compared to the "Chronicles of Narnia" and "His Dark Materials" series.  Those are some big footprints to follow behind.  I think the comparison is a bit too lofty for the outcome.  

Sylas Tate woke up as a normal boy running errands for an oppressive uncle when he comes across the Shop of Things and his whole world is upended.  He must find his mother.  He enters upon the journey of his life.

The novel is a trope and was a little hard to push passed my expectations.  Most of the time I felt like I was reading any number of other middle grade novels where the protagonist flees the evil overlord to come out the other side as a hero.  

The story felt forced, but the concept of the Glimmer Myth kept me from putting this away unfinished.  This is a yin and yang story.  There are two worlds that are reflections of each other.  Each person has a glimmer in the opposite world.

Good concepts that are really fun building blocks.  I commend the hard work that went into this novel's creation.  There is nothing glaringly wrong about the book, and I wouldn't label it as bad.  However, I cannot say that it was good.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Smoke & Summons by Charlie Holmberg

I had stacked up a rather large Netgalley pile again, so despite having pre-ordered this novel, I felt it was only right to plow through my ARCs first.  The only problem was some of them were harder reading than I anticipated, and I was put off from reading this for quite awhile.  I missed the release day I had so hoped to help promote.  Que sera, sera.

I pre-ordered this because 1) it was written by Charlie Holmberg and 2) it is about humans being vessels to spirits.  (I feel this could be turned into a really awesome anime.)  Sandis lives in an incredibly sheltered life as the favorite vessel to a criminally insane master.  Rone is a 25 year old parkour ninja.  How could I not pre-order?

Sandis's character development as an 18 year old runaway is fantastic.  You can feel her naivety from having been sheltered most of her adolescence, but her street smarts from her childhood lie under the surface.  As she flexes her atrophied skills, the story takes a little bit of a slow start.  Plus, everything is being told from two different perspectives until Sandis and Rone meet up in an epic bar fight.

The slow start was a little surprising, but I just knew if I made it to the meat of the story I'd never put it down.  Once Sandis and Rone meet, the novel just absolutely takes off.  The final 3/4 of the novel are absolutely cram packed with action and drama.

The fight scenes are incredibly vivid, and it wasn't hard to have an imaginary battle going on while I read.  There is excellent character development and plenty of scenes for story growth in between all the action.  My heart was wrenching through multiple parts of the story as I became incredibly invested in reading.

And can we just mention that ending?  I mean, honestly, I knew it was coming and yet I still felt slapped in the face.  I think I had honestly stopped breathing in those last paragraphs.  Best ending I have read in years.

There is a strong dynamic of faith and religion that Holmberg brings to the table that makes her novels some of my all time favorites.  I have also found that because of these moral ponderings I am able to reread all her novels despite knowing the final outcome.  That is a top notch novel in my opinion--one you can read and keep getting something out of even when you know the ending.

I have yet to read a book by Charlie Holmberg that I have not enjoyed.  And I still have not been disappointed.  I am super excited that I received an ARC for Myths & Mortals, book two, which is publishing this April!  The even more exciting news is the final book in the trilogy will be releasing by the end of the year.  That is an entire Charlie Holmberg trilogy in one year.  I am beyond pumped.  I have some serious reading to go do now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Immoral Code by Lillian Clark

40610706Today is the release day for Immoral Code by Lillian Clark.  I have a love-hate relationship with this novel.  

I received an e-mail for the advanced copy at the beginning of the year.  I was instantly drawn in by their tagline: "Ocean's 8 meets The Breakfast Club in this fast-paced, multi-perspective story about five teens determined to hack into one billionaire absentee father's company to steal tuition money." 

Should have been suspicious at the 8 instead of 11, but I was completely focused on The Breakfast Club--easily one of my favorite movies.  I didn't read the synopsis much further than that when I clicked the request button.  It took awhile for the request to be approved, and I mostly forgot what the story was all about by the time the ARC hit my inbox.  

I really need to read synopses in much further detail before I request books.  It bites me in the butt when I don't.  Hence the love-hate relationship.  

This is a story told from five different perspectives.  The author does an okay job of achieving unique character voice in this style.  Most of the chapters really just feel like more of the same voice, the kids are not that unique from one another.  (But I honestly feel that this is true teenage mindset, so not a disaster point in my opinion.)

There was plenty of action and drama to keep the story line from getting stagnant.  I didn't have trouble with the grammatical writing.  I had trouble with the concepts and lessons presented.  I understand it is Immoral Code, and it is about hacking and theft, but I figured there would be a correlating message.

Points I loved:

  • Keagan's moral compass
  • Keagan's battle with being moral in a group of amoral idiots
  • Keagan and the conservation he has with his dad
  • Bellamy's logical viewpoint on life and the emotional complications that come from being logical 100 percent of the time

Points I hated:
  • Nari
  • Keagan's relationship with Nari
  • Reese
  • Santiago
  • The amount of diversity pandering
  • The resolution of the story
  • Stance on regret

I honestly never would have requested this title had I read through the synopsis better.  It is not in a genre that I read or have any wish to read.  At times, it was a struggle to get through the novel, but there were bright points that made me give it a chance.  Before I knew it, I was at the end of the book struggling with how I was going to come up with a review.

There are good things that can be garnered from the book, but on an overall scale, I think it has more negatives than positives on what an impressionable young person will walk away with.  Therefore, I won't recommend it.  I'll just put my opinion out there, and then you'll do whatever you feel best suits your needs.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Roads from the Ashes by Megan Edwards

Husband and I want to live in an efficient home.  A floor plan that is less than 1,000 square feet, which apparently went the way of the dodo in the late '90s.  Making our dreams a reality has alluded us, and it's built some frustration.

Then this ARC came through my Netgalley.  The Lord must have heard my quandary and provided some much needed guidance.  I didn't waste any time requesting a copy.  Now I'm itching even worse to get out of here, but at least I now have some ideas on how to make our dreams a reality. 

Megan Edwards's home caught on fire back when the internet was nothing but a fledgling idea.  With nothing to their name, she and her husband decided to buy an R.V. and hit the road.  They didn't want the stereotypical experience of campers hauling themselves from state park to state park.  They wanted to work while exploring the United States.

Megan recounts their adventures as they struck out on a road less traveled and made money doing it.  Megan and her husband pioneered a lifestyle that was little thought of in the '90s.  With that endeavor, they came across many challenges and plenty of frustrations.  Megan captures all the anxiety and pressure of living life off the beaten path, but she also has a way of capturing the humor that comes from failure.

The most surprising part was all the interactions during their travels.  They really met the cream of what the United States has to offer.  All those people are really why they managed to have their success, in my opinion.

There is a ton of nostalgia to this book--which sealed my love for it--but all of the concepts still hold value to a modern reader.  If you dream of a mobile life, or already have the fortune of living it, this is a book you should really read.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

49628I saw a movie, and then I read a book.  If you are a follower of mine, this should now be sending off loud and dangerous warning bells.  

I do not like movies based on novels.  They too often want to press artistic license via dramatic visuals or gender bending on to a beautifully written work.  They think the visualization can expand the imagination.  I despise these actions.  Quit spackling literature with artistic license.

Now for Cloud Atlas.  I saw the movie based on the premise depicted in the trailer.  One story that spans six generations and proves that events span time and space.  Rather unusual and sci-fi, I'm interested.

The movie made zero sense.  We bounce from one generation to another with little discourse and comprehension as to how A got to B.  There are these people with comet birthmarks.  Are they a gang, a secret society, relatives?  What?

Then I read the book.  

We start in the early 1800s with a journal of a lawyer that is being read by a man in the 1930s who is corresponding with a man who wrote an academic treatise in the 1970s that is being hunted by a journalist whose life story became a novel to be published by a man whose life story became a movie that a clone watched in the undated future who became a god to a civilization in yet a further undated future.  

Weird.  And a touch off putting to read as every section is dutifully written in the context of a journal/letter/memoir/interview of each given timeline.  This means really outdated English and colloquialisms in the journal to just absolute guesswork on what the English language will look like in the apocalyptic future.

Now, I am impressed that the author was able to write so cohesively in tone and style to each medium in the novel.  As individual pieces, they are fantastic and the near future clone world would make an awesome sci-fi series.  Put all six scores together as a whole composition and they are a work from Frankenstein.

I think the author was hoping the whole novel would come together and reflect his idea for the six instrument symphony created by Robert Frobisher, our 1930s guide, via reincarnation.  Unfortunately, it failed for me.

Cloud Atlas failed on the whole premise of reincarnation for me.  None of the characters that are supposed to be derived from their predecessor has anything similar in demeanor or conscience.  There is not a single character trait that made me say, "Ah, this is the same person from the previous story."  The lack of this transcendent essence made the entire novel feel like six unique stories stapled together and published straight to market, skip the editor.

The movie certainly makes more sense now that read the novel and delivers that visual flair all movies promise will make it better than the novel.  There wasn't a solid foundation for the movie to build shop on, so I'm impressed with the outcome.  Neither is good without the other.  Is that a victory in there somewhere for the movie industry?

Friday, January 11, 2019

A Riddle in Ruby by Kent Davis

This little gem got lost in a very large physical to-read pile.  After a very serious purging and rationalizing what I was realistically going to read from that pile and what needed to go to my local library, I finally managed to get A Riddle in Ruby to the top of the reading list.  

Thanksgiving had left behind gratitude for a cleaner house and the company of family in town for the holiday.  I wanted to keep the spirit of good nature going through to Christmas on out to the New Year.  This meant picking up that middle grade novel that had been buried in my to-read pile for three long years.  

 A Riddle in Ruby centers around a group of pirates who are actually involved in a deep underground conglomerate with a false name.  The leading lady is on her way to becoming a professional lock-pick for her pirate crew when a chemystral powered carriage charges down a collision course.

The action is well placed and dispersed between excellent bouts of character building and some truly humorous dialogue.  My main gripe with the story is the alternate fiction of the novel setting in Revolutionary Philadelphia.  (All who have read my blog before know I don't like muddying the historical waters with alternate fiction when the story could easily have just been written in a completely make believe world.)

The premise of magical chemistry and the cast of characters are all incredibly entertaining; even the villains are enjoyable to read.  Younger grades will need to be strong readers to handle the antiquated terminology that goes along with the Colonial setting, but older readers should appreciate the length of the story along with the swashbuckling action.

Davis makes a story that is uplifting, humorous and clean--while perhaps not entirely wholesome with all the lock-picking and secret societies.

Plus side to finding this ARC three years later is the entire series is now published.  Guess that means I don't have to wait to continue along with Aruba Teach.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

11295643I have been reading long enough that I no longer remember how exactly I got pulled into the fantasy genre.  

In elementary school, I mostly I read Boxcar Children, Shiloh, Sidewise Stories, Bailey School Kids and Boys Against Girls.  While the Bailey series has mythical creatures, they weren't what I would really call fantasy novels.

During school, I dutifully read my curriculum, which was heavy in Paulsen, London, Hinton, and other very realistic coming of age stories.  It wasn't until I was in high school where I had well outgrown my curriculum and had quite a bit of extra time on my hands.  I needed extracurricular reading.  I asked friends for their favorite reads.  Fantasy books were the ones that I added to my shelves.

Lord of the Rings was one of my favorite trilogies until Brandon Sanderson came along.  I loved the high fantasy of Tolkien.  His elves were specifically most alluring to me.

Then I read Pratchett.  Oh how Pratchett can shine a light on something and make all the warts visible.  The Lords and Ladies of Discworld really are no different from Tolkien's elves, but you don't close Lords and Ladies and want to be an elf.

This was easily my favorite of the Discworld series that focuses on the witches.  I enjoyed their traveling abroad, but this one has lessons.  The novel has quantum mechanics, quashing romantic frippery, the importance of semantics, and being comfortable with who you are.

In fact, my favorite section in the whole book is when Nanny Ogg describes the elves, and she explains semantics.  Words are powerful.  Most of them have been forgotten in modern language, especially since we have somehow bastardized meanings to better suit our moods.

Remember... elves are glamorous.  They project glamour.  No one ever said elves were nice.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Outlaw and the Upstart King by Rod Duncan

Sorry to the author and publishers for not getting out a release day review.  Best laid plans and all that...  I had a very exciting holiday season dealing with a credit card thief, but countered it with Christmas caroling and excellent friends at church.

The Outlaw and the Upstart King made me glad that I gave Duncan another shot.  I was very vocal that The Queen of All Crows left me seriously underwhelmed with the "Gas-Lit Empire" series.  I felt it was a poorly contrived attempt at New Age feminism that just did not fit well with the Elizabeth Barnabus built in the first trilogy.  

Duncan refreshes the series with an entirely new character.  Heck, we don't even see Elizabeth until Part Two.  Once Elizabeth introduces herself to Elias, we finish the novel switching between perspectives.

The new leading gent Elias No-Thumbs has a name you just have to get the story behind.  The small blurb showing him as a leading character on Netgalley is the sole reason I requested the ARC and headed back to the Gas-Lit Empire at all.

Elias is a man down on his luck and living off the scrapings of the rich and mighty he used to rub shoulders with.  He sells his freedom for a ride on an unwelcome smugglers rig and gets enslaved in a glycer factory.  He then sells his future for revenge.  Little did he know what we would find on that return trip when he signed the oath with his blood.

This is not a happy novel.  It is filled with disgust, shame, dirt and hardship.  There is pain.  There is angst.  But I read every last sentence with rapt attention.  I haven't read a book ensconced in the darker side of human emotions combined with the hopes of faith and love in ages.  Too often you get the dark ennui with only the devil for company or you get a pink-spewed rainbow of endless joy.  The lack of balance has sunk many a great story.  

Congratulations, Duncan, on making a story that showed sides of the human experience I haven't read in a long while and bringing me back to why I loved the "Gas-Lit Empire."