Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Trials of Solomon Parker | Eric Scott Fischl

*Image and book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

It's the early 1900's and Sol Parker is as deep in debt as the bottom of the mine he's working, and digging deeper. He just can't resist the dice. After a tragedy strikes the mine and he loses his only son, Sol ends up taking one more gamble when Marked Face offers him what he desires most, another chance.

Review:

This was quite the book. It took a little for me to get into it, and there were some parts that, squeamish me, had troubles with, but it was a good read. Fischl had his work cut out for him when he started changing up the timelines, but he was able to pull it off. At no point did I lose track of the story or the characters. I did have a little trouble getting into the world, but that's my own misconceptions about when the transition from wagons to trucks happened. 

I really felt for the characters in this book. Even when they were in their worst timeline, you knew that this was the magic of the different timeline. All it takes is for one thing to have changed in the past. I did appreciate that the characters kept meeting up, kept finding themselves in Butte. The author, in his notes, compared Sol to Job, but for the duration of this book, I see him as Sisyphus. At least three times we see Sol, aging as he climbs the mined out mountain, only to have to do it again. Trying a different route or a different starting point. Each time, he gets another chance to try to do things right.

Mixed in with Sol's stories are those of Billy (Sagiistoo), a Native American trying to come to terms with his abusive heritage and the abusive Christian school he went to, and the brothers Maatakssi and Siinatssi whose tragedies led to the downfall of The People. Keep in mind, Maatakssi and Siinatssi is not an actual Native legend, Fischl told it in the style of a Native legend, but felt it wasn't his place to tell a true one. The combination of these stories make for an engaging tale about human frailty and the quest for redemption, the need to make things right. 

The book isn't for everyone. There's a lot of abuse, death and cruelty. But there's also the good aspects of humanity. The camaraderie of the miners, standing up to the company so they can work in safer conditions. The love of a father for the child of his blood and the child he adopts. The sacrifices people will make to do the right thing. 

In case you can't tell, I really liked this book. I'm not usually one for historical fiction, but Fischl's books have shown to be worth making an exception. If you're okay with reading a darker book and are interested in trying the historical fiction genre, I highly recommend The Trials of Solomon Parker. 4 hoots!


               Hoot!Hoot!

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

ActivAmerica | Meagan Cass

*Image and book received via NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary (From Publisher):

Drawing from fairy tales, ghost stories, and science-fiction, the stories in ActivAmerica explore how we confront (and exert) power and re-imagine ourselves through sports and athletic activities. A group of girls starts an illicit hockey league in a conservative suburb. A recently separated woman must run a mile a day in order to maintain her new corporate health insurance. Children impacted by environmental disaster create a “mutant soccer team.” Two sisters are visited by an Olympic gymnast who demands increasingly dangerous moves from them. Sports allow the characters to form communities on soccer fields and hidden lakes, in overgrown backyards and across Ping-Pong tables. Throughout the collection, however, athletic risk also comes with unexpected, often unsettling results.
Review:

Let me start by saying, each of these stories were good. They were well written, interesting and I can see why they were included. There were a few stories where I sincerely hope the authors are continuing to practice their writing and honing their skills."Night Games" was an interesting story of learning to take control and learning your limits. "ActivAmerica" showed how getting even just one thing going right in your life can help the rest.

The problem I have with this book is that, after a while, the stories all kinda start sounding the same. Don't get me wrong, they're all different stories, clearly. Stories are told from different perspectives, have different main characters, take place in different dimensions. But the vast majority of the stories had a lot of common themes that were not part of the description. So many of the stories had parents divorced or on the brink of it. Families that would smile and pretend nothing was wrong. An alcoholic mother. A cheating spouse. A parent who genuinely tries to connect with their child and fails. Daughters becoming their mothers despite all attempts otherwise. Hawthorne, NY. I know, you'd think with this many different themes there'd be enough diversity of stories, but when so many of them have one or more of these elements, it gets kinda boring.

This is one of those situations where the contents are genuinely good, but you have to read something in between the stories. This gives each one the opportunity to be fresh and new to you so it can be the great story that it is. If you try to read it all at once, it'll get boring, depressing or both. And I'm not saying I need all stories to have happy endings. I'm just saying, in this anthology, with this many different voices and styles, I was able to predict just about every short story's progression.

So, I'm gonna give this book 3 hoots, but also warn you to read with caution.

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Shadow Ops: Control Point | Myke Cole



Summary:

Lieutenant Oscar Britton has just had his magical ability awaken. Unfortunately his magic is in a prohibited school meaning he is going to be sentenced to death. Naturally, he runs. After he is caught, however, he learns that he will not be put to death, provided he follows the rules and doesn't try to run again. Instead he's been recruited to a secret base in the home of magic, called The Source. Here he must learn to control his magic while trying to figure out just whose side he's on.

Review:

I've been a fan of Military Sci-Fi for a while now so I figured I'd give Military Fantasy a try. This, maybe wasn't the best book for the transition.

The world this takes place in is amazing. It's very easy to get into the swing of things, figure out the way things are, etc. Even the magical world of The Source was very well thought out and intriguing. The indigenous people, nicknamed Goblins, have entire histories and mannerisms that I would love to learn more about. The clear and blatant racism that the Goblins have to deal with daily was heart-wrenching.

Then there was the classism between those who agreed to use their magic to serve their country and the Selfers, people who refused to take the oath. Selfers were treated like dangerous criminals even after they'd learned to control their magic. They were not allowed to go home, by all accounts they were dead. Their only choice was to either be treated like a prisoner and watch propaganda videos or take the oath to serve those who had put them into this situation because of reasons beyond their control. No one can control if or when their magic will manifest, nor in what way it will manifest. But, if you show signs of magic, you're drafted, one way or another.

And these situations provide wonderful ethical debates about freedom and treatment of prisoners of wars and more!

The problem I have with this book is the characters. I repeatedly called Britton an idiot. And yes, he did most of his stupid things for good reasons (he didn't want to die, he didn't want his friend to die) but I still felt like he deserved every hit he took. And he takes a lot of hits. At the end of the book a lot of people are dead because of him. Whether they were the good guys or not, that doesn't justify their deaths, nor how they died. He, himself, points out a few times what his biggest flaw is, his pride. If he could've learned to just shut up once in a while, he might have been an okay main character.

The other characters in this book are rather one dimensional, their motivations defining who they are and what they do. Even the bad guys, on every side, are very straight forward. Almost comically so. Britton's motivations keep flip-flopping so it made it even more difficult to like him. Therese and Marty were the only characters that I actually care about what happened to them.

In the end, though, I have to give this book 3 hoots. At no point did I feel like I needed to stop reading it and, when all was said and done, I have to say I am tempted to buy the next book. It has a different main character and the author had more experience under his belt when he wrote it. If it goes on sale, I'll buy it. In the meantime, this first book of the series gets 3 hoots!

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Future War | Robert H. Latiff

*Image and book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

Retired U.S. Air Force major general Robert H. Latiff has written this book to inform the public about current, pending and future technologies used in war. He has also written a plea to the American public to pay attention to these technologies, their uses and users and to debate the possible consequences.

Review:

The first part of this book showed me just how close we are to the military Sci-Fi books I love becoming a lot less Sci-Fi. This both thrilled and terrified me. In the Sci-Fi books, the technologies are already common place and the errors minimized. We're still in the testing phases and the full ramifications are not yet thought through. 

The technologies that we are looking at are amazing developments, if they can be perfected. We've seen videos of amputees controlling robot actions with their mind. There are news stories about technological advances allowing for faster healing. We're even getting closer to being able to delete bad memories. These technologies are amazing. But they're not always good. What are the psychological side effects of knowing that a lost limb can be regrown or replaced? If you don't remember the bad things, even horrors, that you've done, are you still responsible for them? 

There are even questions to consider about robots being brought into war zones. We've already seen in real life how algorithms do not always go as we think they will, as we plan they will. Artificial intelligence is still in rough stages. Being able to beat humans at games is one thing. Being able to make the right call on the battlefield is another. And what about the soldiers who serve alongside these robots? How will it affect their behavior? Their calls?

This book does a wonderful job of presenting the technology, presenting the questions that need to be asked, and giving the common citizen a good place to start their own research and education on the topic. Latiff laments the chasm that's been steadily forming between US Troops and US citizens and pleads for citizens to educate themselves and start closing that gap. After reading this book, I have expanded my daily news topics and will be looking up a number of the books he lists in his notes. 

If you have any interest in the future of technology, the current or future state of warfare, how to support our troops more effectively, this is the book for you. If you have any interest in joining the US Armed Forces, you will want to read this book as well. I highly encourage any and all US citizens to pick this up and learn more about what is involved when politicians talk about sending out our troops.

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                     Hoo

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Outriders | Jay Posey


Summary:

Captain Lincoln Suh has trained his entire career to be the best of the best. Despite this, he's been passed over for promotion time and time again. When he is non-select for a program he trained for months to be a part of, he's not sure what to do. Then he gets recruited for an even more elite, and less well known, program: 301st Information Support Brigade. Before he has time to catch his breath, Lincoln and his new team are sent on a mission to try to stop the looming war between Earth and Mars.


Review:

Back in June I reviewed the sequel to this book, Sungrazer, and loved it so much I immediately bought this one. I was not disappointed. I'll admit, I kinda wish I had read them in order, and recommend you do too, but I gotta say, each of them are good enough to stand on their own.

Probably my favorite part of this book is that it fills in some of the gaps in my understanding of characters and greatly helped my understanding of the technology. In the second book I thought the armor was impressive. In this first book, where we get more exposition on it, I was practically drooling over the armor, it was just so cool! And the characters who were fun to read in Sungrazer became even more endearing in Outriders because we got to know more about who they are and where they come from. 

And the dialogue! Holy wah the dialogue is so entertaining! Even when it's full of exposition it's told in such a way that you're more intrigued than bored. Especially when 'One-Time' Mike is talking. Seriously, every group has to have a  clown and he more than lives up to the role. He even had Master Sergeant Wright, one of the most stoic women I've ever read, trying not to laugh out loud while hiding her smile. The dialogue always feels so natural, especially when the characters are all so intelligent.

Each and every character brings something to the table. I don't think there's any wasted information or dialogue. I was never left wondering what happened with this or that. I was never caught of guard by something out of left-field, yet the book is not predictable. This is a well thought out plot with a well thought out characters. I'm gonna see about rereading Sungrazer and then start bugging the author and publisher for the next book in the series. I really like the books on their own, but as a series, they're wonderful reads! 4 hoots!

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Under the Pendulum Sun | Jeannette Ng

*Image and book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

Catherine Helstone has gone to Arcadia, land of the Fae, in search for her brother Laon, a missionary who has failed to follow up with her or his church in some time. Considering the mysterious death of the previous missionary to the Fae Lands, she is anxious to find him. Unfortunately, her long stay in Arcadia is riddled with riddles of a dangerous variety. She must find a way to navigate them while holding onto her own soul. 

Review:

Let me start out by saying: Holy wah. Holy wah! Holy WAH! This book was an amazing read! I can't remember the last time I was tempted to take a day off work just to finish a book! There were so many things to think about and work through! I generally highlight parts of a book that make me think, or to look up later, or that might be clues for the overall story. Usually I highlight just a few things overall. I swear I highlighted almost half the book just because there was so much that struck me! 

You can tell Jeannette Ng has done the research on this. Not just because she has her Master's in Medieval and Renaissance studies (by the way this book takes place in 1800's) but also because of her mastery of the language. She uses the terminology these characters would have used in their time, in their place. My favorite part was that the Fae tell how long it takes to get somewhere, not with time or distance, but stories. For example, the Pale Queen commented to the Salamander that it had been too long since they'd last seen each other.
The Salamander bowed deep, her wet-seeming scales glistening. "It has been as long as it takes to tell a tale, neither long nor short."
And this really gives you an insight into the Fae mindset. If one doesn't measure time by seconds and minutes or distance in feet or meters, it really affects your interpretation of the world around you.

The best part, for me, is that everything ended up making perfect sense. When I got to the end of the book and saw the full scope of this story my jaw dropped in awe. I don't want to give any spoilers, but I will say that the Mastermind of it all has much more power, influence and insight than I had EVER thought to give them credit for! I was floored by how little I had comprehended! Don't get me wrong, the story's only told from Catherine's perspective, but still! I ended up falling into the same thought trap that she did and I almost never do that! I was so caught up in this story that I was unable to predict, unable to see, except as hindsight. IT WAS AWESOME!

I'll admit, the dark, gothic fantasy genre isn't for everyone. If you are interested in true fairy tales, like the original dark Brother's Grimm stuff, you'll probably like this. There's a lot of theology mixed with mythology that does such a wonderful job of tickling one's curiosity.

I am so in love with this book that I'm pre-ordering it (click the picture above to go to the book's page). I happily give this book 5 hoots and look forward to more books from Jeannette Ng!

               Hoot!Hoot!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Actually. Best. Jokes. Ever | Chantelle Grace

*Image and book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

Review:

This was a cute little book of knock knock jokes, tongue twisters and puns, definitely meant for a younger audience. A lot of the jokes I had heard before, but I still got quite a few chuckles out of them, as well as several groans of annoyance from my husband when I read them out loud. I do wish the book had more illustration or more to it than just a long list of words, but that's a personal preference. If you're looking for a cute little joke book for a younger child, this is a nice choice. 3 hoots!