Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Uploaded | Ferret Steinmetz

*Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

In the future, death is not a problem. The human consciousness gets regularly copied onto servers so that, once you die, you can join Upterlife, literally a virtual utopia. Of course, there are rules. You cannot get in to Upterlife if you are a suicide, if you are a criminal or if the dead judge you to be unworthy. You prove your worth by serving the dead, who have the greatest political say since there are many more of them than there are living. The living have to suffer through soul crushing work and being under constant surveillance by the dead. Amichai, however, has other plans for his life.

Review:

For being based in a world where the dead are connected to everything and the living can connect with each other easier than ever, this book is all about disconnection. The dead no longer have to breathe, eat or sleep so in the many years they've been dead, they've lost touch with the needs of the living. The highly educated director of Amichai's orphanage has several degrees in adolescent psychology but has no clue how to deal with actual teenagers. The living care more about their Upterlife demo time than they do connecting with other living humans. The Neo-Christians are divided into more sects than contemporary Christianity and do not communicate openly as a precaution against involuntary brain scan interrogation. It's really hard not to see parallels to today's real world concerns. 

I'll admit, there were a few tropes in this book. It takes a rebellious teenager to really set things in motion. You have one guy who's the leader of dead and who is willing to sacrifice the living to meet his goals. You have a mentor who is actually more invested in the rebellion than the main character thought. You even have a love triangle. 

Where this book diverges, however, is much more important and poignant. I actually made a comment on Twitter about how where most books would have ended and set up for a sequel, this book just keeps on going (in a good way). The end of this book is a true ending and I'm not wanting this to have a sequel, for all the right reasons. I really feel that this story line is complete. There are no loose threads or questions that still need to be resolved. I thank the author for this; plot holes and loose threads are pain. 

Best of all, this was a very engaging book. I accidentally had a couple long lunch hours because I just needed to keep reading. The characters are well thought out in their personalities and philosophies. It was really easy to feel for them. The world of this book is easy to get into and understand. Heck, one of the villains from this book was so good he kept catching me off guard because I kept underestimating him.

I really enjoyed this book and, if you're a fan of dystopian books, a fan of books about society, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy this one. 4.5 hoots!

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Darkness Upon the Deep | Hristo Goshev | Mini-Review

*Image is from the story's webpage here.

Review:

I was asked by the author, Goshev, to read this short story and provide an honest review. Honestly, this was a good read with a better ending than I thought it would have. The pacing is strong, the twist is kinda predictable, but to be fair, you can only do so much with a short story. The setting made me think of a mix of Lovecraft's alternate dimensions with Sci-Fi technology. Again, the ending was better than I thought it would be. There was a peacefulness to some of those lines that were a compatible contrast (if that makes any sense) to the madness of the earlier part of the story. I give this short story 3.5 hoots and highly encourage you to give it a look. Again, this story can be found at this link.

                   Hoot!

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

WBI: Witches Bureau of Investigation | Richard Capwell


Summary:

Nate and Herman's mom has been gone for several months. The police have given up and their dad is a shadow of his former self. When the boys help an eccentric woman, Mrs. Weatherby, who claims to be a witch, she offers to help them out. Unfortunately the location of their mother is hidden by a Malignancy Shroud which can only be set up by a bad witch with a very powerful relic that was supposed to be locked up. Mrs. Weatherby and the boys must find this bad witch if they are to find the boys' mother.

Review:

This was such a good read. It really reminded me of the adventure books I read when I was a kid and was interesting enough to hold my attention as an adult. I have to agree with some others who have read this book that this would be a good one for grandparents to read to their grandkids. Mrs. Weatherby's personality is a great balance to the 11-year-old twins'. They're each reflective of their generation without it being insulting or overly silly to either party.

The magic of this world was very interesting. It integrated easily with technology and was usually meant more for practical things. I definitely want my own version of Mrs' Weatherby's license plates, "they're very special plates...There's always a parking spot exactly where I need it." And Doris' ability to mix her crystal ball with the Internet was a wonderful blending of science and magic that I'd love to read more about. I also liked that there were different animals as familiars with different strengths of their own. One of them was a giant praying mantis! I'd never heard of a praying mantis as a familiar before!

I really enjoyed this book and will be looking to get the second one. It's a book of clean fun that's good for all ages. If you like light-hearted stories about magic in the real world, pick this up and enjoy! 4 hoots!

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Code Breakers: Alpha | Colin F. Barnes


Summary:

Gerry has officially won the lottery! He now has seven days to settle his affairs before he is put to death. When he is kicked out of the building he used to work at, he is found by Gabriel who claims that his AIA, the chip in his head that connects him to the entire city's network, is infected. By a demon. And he needs to get it exorcised. What follows is an adventure that combines dystopian futures, Mad Max meets the Matrix. 

Review:

This book made me think of made-for-tv movies that are entertaining enough to keep your attention and are worth putting up with the ads for, but not really something you get really invested in. I put this book down several times because the pacing was kinda off for me. At times it felt like it was going too fast, other times too slow. Yet 90% or so of the book takes course over just a few days, I think. 

The characters were interesting enough, if a little predictable, but I just couldn't bring myself to get invested in their story. Again, this may be a pacing issue. I certainly can't blame the world building. The world of Code Breakers is easy enough to see and understand. I even appreciate the diversity of types of survivors, even if some of them are a bit stereotypical. I do wish more of the technology used was a little bit better explained. As it was, a lot of it felt more like it was magic than technology (and yes, I know the quote). 

The ending was also very reminiscent of a made-for-tv movie. I read and thought "really?" 

The e-book only costs 99 cents and that's a good deal for its entertainment value. I probably won't pick up the second book though. 2.5 hoots.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Paradox Bound | Peter Clines

*Book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

Eli Teague is waiting for someone. He's met Harry twice, when Eli was in elementary school, then again when he was 13. Each time, Harry's never aged and has always shown up in a Model A with an engine that runs on water. Each time she's been followed by the Faceless Men. When Eli, all grown up, finds out Harry is in danger, he heads out to warn her and gets caught up in history traveling (not time traveling) quest for the American Dream.

Review:

This book is very different from other Clines books that I've read. He has a reference in it to the world of two of his other books (14 and The Fold) which I appreciated. But other than that, this is a very different book. I'll admit, it's not my kind of book, but I still enjoyed it. I'm not usually one for historical fiction, but this book was kind of like National Treasure but with history travel (again, not time travel). I appreciated that the ending was different enough from what I as predicting. There's also a strong sense of humor throughout and the two main characters don't fall in love by the end of the book. All things I enjoy reading. Overall, it was a nice step outside my usual genre. 3 hoots!

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Science of Monsters | Matt Kaplan


Summary:

This is a non-fiction book of anthropological, psychological, biological and paleontological (and more) theories behind the origins of the various international monsters. Many of the monsters are from western culture (Minotaur, Medusa, Frankenstein's Monster, etc.) But there are a number of global monsters as well.

Review:

I was immediately drawn to this book. Monsters have always fascinated me, even when I was too scared to watch monster movies. Some people may look at this book like a magician revealing his tricks, but I look at it as a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction scenario. The idea that dragon myths may have originated because of pockets of methane triggered by ancient miners is one that thrills me. I genuinely enjoy the scientific explanations of mythological and supernatural ideas. 

The fact that Kaplan presents these theories in an easy-to-read format with a sense of humor and his own sense of wonder is a wonderful bonus. This is a non-fiction but Kaplan does a wonderful job of keeping the book from being dry and boring. His footnotes have good supplementary information and jokes for the reader to enjoy. 

I really feel this book was well researched and well written. There was a lot of intriguing information about how the human perspective of the world has changed throughout the ages and continues to change. The theories on why the roles and histories of monsters have changed through the years make sense and give a new appreciation for the monsters that survived so many generations. Seriously, though the role and history of Medusa has changed, she has survived through millennia to still be part of human culture. That is amazing!

If you're looking for a non-fiction that will appeal to your love of fantasy, this is a great pick. If you're even just mildly curious about some of the monsters you love and where they come from, this is a great book to pick up. I really enjoyed reading this and encourage you to pick it up. 4.5 hoots!

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Ten Dead Comedians | Fred Van Lente

*Book received from NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

Nine stand-up comedians are invited to join Dustin Walker, one of the most legendary names in the comedy business, at his island home to partake in a project. When they arrive, however, they are told by Walker's introductory video that he's brought them all to the island to die. Then the video shows him hanging himself. Sure enough, one by one, the remaining comics begin dying off. With no hope of rescue, they must figure out how to survive, if they don't kill each other first.

Review:

I genuinely enjoyed this book. It was a nice change of pace for me. I normally don't read murder mysteries, especially not ones that take place in the "real world". This book, however, was pleasantly entertaining. I had figured out the "who" kinda early on, but the "how" was so much more interesting than I thought. 

The book is a little dark. With so many deaths in so little time, what can you expect? You also get to see the darker side of the comedy show biz life. Despite there being so many comedians, there was quite a bit of drama and very few redeemable traits. And while there was a lot of death, it wasn't as gruesome as it could have been. Though you do get a fair amount of clever and funny dialogue. Heck, I was actually rooting for a couple of the comedians to survive because they were good at what they did and were smart about trying to survive. 

The ingenuity of the killer, however, that was the major selling point of this book. Sure their reasons for doing everything made me think of them as a whiny, overly sensitive, insane person. But I gotta give it to them, they really knew what they were doing. They had everything planned to precision. It was wonderful to get an intelligent villain. 

Despite not liking murder mysteries in general, I really enjoyed reading Ten Dead Comedians. It is intelligent and funny with just the right amount of dark humor. 4 hoots!

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