Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hellboy: On Earth as it is in Hell | Brian Hodge


Summary:

When the Vatican archives are attacked by Seraphim looking to destroy a document that could cause a rift in the Church, the BPRD are called in. Hellboy, Abe and Liz seek to protect the document by taking it to BPRD headquarters, but get attacked and left for dead along the way. They soon find out that, not only are they working against demons who seek to release the document, but also an extreme sect of Christians who seek to destroy the document by, literally, any means.

Review:

I'll be honest, I'm generally the first person to praise the Hellboy novels, but this one kinda fell short for me. There were demons, ghosts, and the Leviathan, but I still found myself feeling bored for a lot of it. I'm not entirely sure why I felt bored, maybe I found the action-to-exposition ratio to be off. Maybe this just wasn't the book for me.

Hodge gets the world of BPRD right and keeps true to the heart of it. There are monsters in both human and demon form. There are pocket worlds where terrible things happen. None of it was particularly scary or mind bending for me. If it weren't for the actual inclusion of the demons and seraphim, this entire book could be an action thriller with an entirely human cast. Maybe that's what makes the book fall flat for me, the monsters and supernatural creatures feel secondary to the philosophy and human nature. And I like my monsters.

Still, if you're interested in thrillers and don't mind the supernatural aspects, you'd probably enjoy this book. As for me, I'm still gonna read Hellboy novels, but this one just doesn't work for me. 3 hoots!


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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bloggiesta 2017

Bloggiesta Button 2

You know, it's been a while since I've actually participated in a Bloggiesta except to host Twitter Chats (I LOVE hosting Twitter Chats!). I've been working on trying to find a good pace for posting my book reviews without feeling overwhelmed. Heck, last year I read 28,000 pages but it ended up feeling more like work than fun. This year, I'm trying to slow down my reading, but since I only post once a week, I've got quite the backlog of reviews. It's making it so that, if I finish a book today, it'll be at least a month before the review goes up. And this isn't the best set up for authors and publishers, especially when I get NetGalley books.

So, my goal this Bloggiesta (other than hosting Thursday's 8 PM Twitter Chat) is to tweak my posting schedule. I'm thinking of adding a second review every two weeks. And if I don't have a review, I can use Book Tags or Recipes instead. 

What do you think? How do you handle your blogging schedule? Do you plan ahead or do you post as you finish your books? Please let me know!


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Toru: Wayfarer Returns | Stephanie R. Sorensen

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

Summary:

In an alternate history of 1850's Japan, Toru has returned from two years in the United States where he studied their military tactics, technology and economics. He risks his life by breaking Japan's isolation policy and returning to the shores of Japan so he can teach his fellow countrymen how to build and improve upon American technologies to defend themselves against the force that he knows is coming. 

Review:

This is one of those books that I could not put down. Even when I had to put it away for the sake of work or eating, it was all I could think about! I was so invested in the characters that I told my husband, "if [character name] dies, I'm going to be very mad." I was very much rooting for Toru to win over the Shogun and arm Japan. I was rooting for Masuyo to pave the way for women to be engineers and airship captains, though sometimes I was rooting for her father, Lord Aya, to win just one argument against her. I was especially rooting for Jiro every time he gave himself a promotion. 

While the book description says it's steampunk, the author, herself, agrees that it may not be "true steampunk". Technology is central to the story, but the book is more about societal and personal reactions to sudden changes in technology, as opposed to being about the technology itself. In this, I wouldn't label it as a steampunk novel, but that does not detract from the book, for me.

I greatly appreciated Sorensen's character and world building. I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of Japanese history is sorely lacking, so her attention to details about the land, the etiquette, etc. were quite helpful to me. Her characters were also so endearing on just about every level and diverse in their attributes. Even allies and best of friends have their own personalities and views. While there is drama and politics in this book, there is a healthy balance of humor as well, right up to the very end. 

This is the first book in a series and, I'll admit, I'm quite interested in seeing where this alternative history goes. I give it 5 hoots and eagerly await the next installment!

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Grace of Kings | Ken Liu


Summary:

The islands of Dara have recently come under the rule of one Emperor for the first time since the people's ancestors first landed. Unfortunately, the Emperor's rule is tyrannical and inspires several uprisings. The only successful uprisings are led by Mata Zyndu, who looks and fights like a hero of legend, and Kuni Garu, a former gangster who never had any direction in life. Unfortunately, though their campaigns are successful, there can only be one winner and friendship and the bonds of brothers-in-arms cannot survive.

Review:

This book was an enjoyable distraction from reality. It drew me in so well that, when I had to put it down for a spell, it felt like I was waking up into a different world. The characters are fully developed and feel very real and human, even the gods of Dara. I'll admit, I had some problems warming up to Kuni Garu as he reminded me of some people that I don't like, but his genuine kindness and concern over the well being of his people brought me around.

I do wish that the technology of this world was better explained. The islands of Daru boast many engineers as well as magic, though magic is usually reserved for the gods. But there was one scene where a metal detector was used and it caught me off guard. I had thought the technology was rather Renaissance Age(ish) so a metal detector really threw me off.

There is a lot of drama throughout this story, as one would expect. A few times I wanted to smack a character or two for causing or succumbing to said drama. Yet, this seems to fit with the overall theme of the book; the flawed hero. While Mata Zyndu embodies the heroes of old with his build, manner, and belief in might makes right, this sends his lands into a kind of chaos of their own. At the same time, while Kuni Garu's style keeps as many alive as possible, his character is far from perfect or honorable.

While I wish the ending was different, I respect Liu's choice to end it the way he did. Especially since it really seems like it's the only way it could end without feeling cheap. Liu sets up for a sequel quite well, though I'm not sure I'll be reading it. This book held my interest throughout, was quite endearing, and threw me a few surprises. But, I'm not really one for court level drama and politics and, from what I could determine with the ending of this first book, that's what the next book is going to be.

I happily give Grace of Kings 3.5 hoots and encourage anyone interested in fantasy, war, drama, etc. to pick up a copy.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Action Hero's Handbook | David Borgenicht & Joe Borgenicht


Summary:

A collection of short How-To's written by experts in their various fields, compiled by David and Joe Borgenicht. Each section deals with all the everyday aspects of being an action hero from the mundane checking your hotel room for booby traps to the supernatural creating your own love potion. 

Review:

This was a fun, even informative, book to read. No, I don't think I'll ever need to know the proper procedure to make sure my hotel room isn't booby trapped, but I do think it helpful to know a couple self-defense basics. I also enjoyed the diversity of information in this book. I never thought about it, but action heroes really do need to know a lot of different things. This book even covers some basic dance moves! 

All of the information is provided by experts with years of experience. I greatly appreciated the authors including an "about" section at the end giving each contributor's credentials. The authors, themselves, take the information and make it applicable to the everyday life of an action hero. It makes for a fun and educational read. I know that I certainly learned some good techniques for getting away from potentially dangerous people and situations. 

If you're looking for a light, yet informative read, I do recommend this book. 3 hoots!

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Moonstroke | Blaine C. Readler

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

Summary:

On the US moon base, on the side of the moon that never faces Earth, there is a group of survivors. Years previous, a giant sun-flare killed almost all of the adults. The survivors are their children, all grown up, and the few adults that were lucky enough to be inside. To keep the kids productive and free from idleness, they are taught all the skills they need to continue their parents work and mine all of the platinum they can find and that's all they're given. When Van accidentally gets access to the blueprints for the radio/comms room, things begin to change and change quickly.

Review:

Despite having a relatively full cast of characters, the theme of this book is isolation. Whether it is the physical isolation of the moon base from Earth and the other moon bases or the social isolation of the science and engineering groups from the mining groups. Heck, in a way they've even isolated an entire generation from the memories of their parents. The key challenge in all of this is isolation and its effects on individuals and the populace. 

I really liked how Readler used this theme to shape his characters. I feel that there weren't any overplayed character tropes as a result. Yes, there were a couple of typical things, it can't be a space-isolation story without someone going insane, but I felt there was enough differentiation in cause to keep them from being boring. I found his characters to be intelligent, highly optimistic, but not so lacking in common sense that it was irritating. 

Probably the only thing I wish the book had done differently was how rushed the ending felt. The majority of this book is spent getting the nexgens to start learning how much they don't know they don't know. When it comes time for the main conflict, it feels like everything happens in just a few quick chapters. It's quite the abrupt change in pace. I don't blame Reader for doing this, though, you don't want a book to be too slow and without the slower pace of this first part of the plot, world and character building would be almost impossible.

In all, this was an enjoyable book. There were even some surprises in it. One or two things near the end felt a little forced, but there was little to no something-out-of-nothing surprises. If that makes any sense. I recommend this for anyone looking for an easy read, space adventure with young adult protagonists. 3.5 hoots!

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

City of Miracles | Robert Jackson Bennett

*This book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

It has been many years since the events in Voortyashtan that left Sigrud a wanted man by the Saypuri army. He's been in hiding, taking odd jobs and keeping a low profile, waiting for word from Shara Komayd. When Sigrud hears that she has been killed, it send him into a hidden war between the children of the divine and the shadows. 


Review:

I absolutely loved City of Blades, the second book in this series (still need to read City of Stairs) so I was very excited to pick up this third book. Sigrud was such an incredible character in "Blades" that I was eager to see what he would do as a main character. Let me just say, it was awesome.

This book is such a wonderful blend of action, intrigue, magic and intelligent characters. The main characters have been doing what they've been doing for many years. They are old(er) people and it shows in their perspectives, their choices, their sheer common sense!

Once again, I find myself appreciating Bennett's ability to combine drama and action with  a healthy dose of humor. He makes every character decision and all the dialogue seem so natural. Not only that, but I actually didn't see the big twist coming! I kinda pride myself on being able to predict the flow of books, but there was one, really big twist that I just did not predict, even though all the pieces were there! I swear I was paying attention, but it still surprised me!

For the most part, I don't think you need to have read the full series to enjoy this book. Reading either of the previous books will help with understanding a lot of what's going on in the world overall. However, if you were to "walk into" this book without any knowledge of the world, I think you'd still be able to enjoy it! However, if you're not a fan of a lot of blood in your books, you will want to pick up something else. There is a lot of blood. 4 hoots!

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