Saturday, February 17, 2018

Human Errors | Nathan H. Lents

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

Summary:

Professor of Biology, Nathan H. Lents, discusses the many, many, many failures present in our human bodies that you'd think evolution would've fixed up or never made possible in the first place. The topics go from head to feet and back again.

Review:

This book is clearly meant for lay people like myself. It is written at an accessible level and has plenty of humor to make the reading engaging. If my high school biology class had used this book, I would have learned a lot more. As it is, I feel a lot more informed about human anatomy than I used to be. From the structure of our eyes to the interconnections of the bones in our ankles and wrists. This is a very educational book that keeps your interest and is easy to read.

And it's not just the physical aspects of humanity that are discussed. As interesting as it is to question why our ACL, even after all these years, is still better designed for a species that walks on four limbs, our brains are even more confounding! Lents doesn't have all the answers, but he is really good at explaining the problems and their theorized origins in our evolutionary history. And not just the physical stuff, either. The social and mental stuff  gets discussed at length as well.

I really liked this book and highly recommend it for anyone who needs a refresher on biology or has questions on anatomy. The book is very comprehensible for those of us without a lot of background on the topic. There is an excellent blend of information, theory and humor. I happily give 4 hoots!

               Hoot!Hoot!

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Starfang: Rise of the Clan | Joyce Chng


Summary:

Captain Francesca Min Yue has been charged by her father to kill Yeung Leung of the Amber Eyes and resolve the blood feud. Using their werewolf blood, her crew hunt Leung through several systems, thriving on the hunt. Along the way they encounter a small child, half Amber Eyes half Pariah, with only her puppy and a message, "Help her." Now Francesca needs to balance the safety of her crew, the honor of her clan and the future of this feral child while hunting down a very dangerous enemy.

Review:

For being such a short book (94 pages) this book packs quite the story. Chng doesn't waste words with irrelevant details and while there are some exposition dumps, they are short lived and well blended to the main story. If anything, I wish there was more about this world to read! It's an incredible world that has humans, werewolves (homo sapiens lupus), shishini (highly intelligent velociraptor type creatures) and jukka (stereotypical big-eyed aliens) in the same galaxy. I really hope Chng is looking at writing another book in this world because it is incredibly interesting and I want to know more about it.

Francesca was a very good character to lead this story. It's almost a stereotype that kick-ass women in books are only fighters and have to "struggle" to be anything else. Francesca seamlessly switches back and forth between being the strong fighter, the quick thinking captain, the motherly caretaker of the little girl, loving daughter and niece, and romantically interested. She is a well-rounded character who feels more real than the usual characters that are torn between any two of these roles. Like I said, Chng doesn't waste words and that really helps to strengthen Francesca as a character. 

Admittedly there isn't as much direct action as I usually like in a story, but there's also no time to slow down. Every page of this novella either builds the world, builds the character or moves the story forward. Sometimes all at the same time. This is an engaging read that left me wanting more. I want to know more about the clans, more about the little girl, and more about the food. Fair warning, if you are vegan or vegetarian,  you may have a problem with this book. For carnivores like me, however, you may get hungry!

I really enjoyed reading this novella. We get werewolves in space and not in a cheesy horror movie sense. This is a well developed world that has so much more I want to know about! I happily give 4.5 hoots and encourage you to get a copy.

               Hoot!Hoot!

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                     Hoo

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Quietus | Tristan Palmgren

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

Summary:

Habidah and her team of anthropologists from another plane are studying this world before and during the Black Plague. They are gathering information on how societies handle such a powerful epidemic because their own world is suffering from an incurable disease and information is helpful. Nicculoccio is a monk at Sacro Cuore, the only of his brothers to survive the plague. He's buried all of the others and has no reason not to believe he's the last human alive. When Habidah and Nicculoccio meet, it sets them on the path to discover what is really happening in both their worlds and how to stop it.

Review:

This book does an interesting thing. It manages a tight balance between exposition, philosophy and story that keeps this book interesting. With as long as this book is and with as little action as there is, there was the risk of being boring, but Palmgren does a great job of keeping all the elements in line so that I was still engaged in the reading. I never drifted off or loss interest because all the elements at play were kept balanced. Palmgren also keeps the mystery of the powers at play just out of reach enough that I had to keep reading because I couldn't guess and I was as curious as the characters. 

It was genuinely interesting to read the juxtaposition of the advanced, interplanar society next to the medieval, scientifically illiterate world. To see the similarities between how the amalgamates are treated and how God is thought of. To read about the varying reactions to an unstoppable, unpredictable disease. The attitude that Habidah's team has towards the "backward" people of Nicculoccio's world and the reverence Nicculoccio has towards Habidah's world makes for an interesting dynamic and conversation.

Then there are the thought experiments/meditations. Does the amalgamates refusal to cure the Black Plague equal the force that causes the plague in Habidah's world? Are they equally evil or is one worse than the other? Does the knowledge that nothing you do matters liberate you or trap you? How do you keep moving forward when everything seems pointless or trivial?

As much as I love books with high action and low exposition, every now and then it's good to stretch my brain with a book like this. A book with more philosophy and story than action, but still well balanced and interesting. If you're a fan of historical fiction looking to branch into Sci-Fi or looking for heavier read in general, I recommend this book. It's got plenty of power play drama, religious in-fighting and some actual fighting. It's also got new worlds to discover and governments to destroy. 3.5 hoots!

               Hoot!Hoot!
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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Smoke Eaters | Sean Grigsby

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

Summary:

It's the year 2121 and firefighter Cole Brannigan is literally one week from retirement when he receives his last call. Confirmed, no dragons. At least, until a dragon shows up anyways. Instead of dying, however, he is found to be resistant to smoke and fire and ends up recruited into the Smoke Eaters, a special branch of the firefighters dedicated to fighting dragons. He's old, and everyone admits that, but there are too few Smoke Eaters and they need all the help they can get. Now he has to survive Smoke Eater training, dragons, wraiths, a mayor with a vendetta, and his wife's temper.

Review:

I had a lot of fun reading this book. It was one of those books that made me worry I'd miss a bus stop because it was so engaging. It's not too surprising, this book has so many elements that I love. You've got a cast of characters, with attitude and mild superpowers, who are up against ancient monsters, robots and a corrupt government. Seriously, what's not to enjoy?

The world this takes place in is a very interesting blend of fantasy and science fiction. Using contemporary understanding to make futuristic weapons to fight off ghosts and the dragons those ghosts summon was interesting. And not just the weaponry, the armor was also really cool. I loved that, as advanced as the suits were, they were still realistic. The comparison was made to an Iron Man suit, but one that only has so much power to it. It makes the world feel that much more possible to me. Especially when Grigsby puts his actual firefighter experience to play. I've learned a bit more about fire than I had known before and plenty more about the day-to-day of being a firefighter.

And, of course, there's the dialogue. There's plenty of humor throughout the book because it's written from Brannigan's perspective, but the dialogue is where it really comes through. The Smoke Eaters live up to their motto of "Sink or Swim". I will admit, a few times I felt Brannigan was overdoing it in terms of speaking his mind or always putting himself in the line of fire with little thought to collateral damage (he costs the people around him). But, I suppose, that's his character. He's an old man set in his ways of running towards danger and calling people out on their bad habits that could get others killed.

That being said, I did get more into this story than I thought I would. I really hope there will be more books set in this world. If not, I'm still looking forward to more books by Grigsby. 4.5 hoots!

               Hoot!Hoot!

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                     Hoo

Saturday, January 20, 2018

25 Ways to Kill a Werewolf | Jo Thomas


Summary:

Elkie Bernstein and her childhood best friend Dave Williams are play fighting in the woods when they suddenly get attacked by a giant mongrel. When the mongrel accidentally gets impaled on one of their spears, they see the mongrel form turn human. After that, more and more show up ready, willing and able to kill her.

Review:

I really enjoyed this book. It's kinda simple in nature, there's no global conspiracy or league of werewolf hunters or anything like that. It's just Elkie, trying to live her life while under constant threat of werewolf attack. No one besides her and two friends seem to know that werewolves exist and since the bodies revert back to human at death, who'd believe her? 

Each chapter is titled after a different method of death and it became interesting to try to figure out how some of them would work. Don't get me wrong, Method 3: Train was pretty obvious. But Method 8: Chocolate Spread had me wondering. I found the story and methods of death to be very creative. While it got old for Elkie pretty quick, it didn't get old for me!

And I am so glad we get to read the story from Elkie's perspective. She is such a good character. She has times where she gets frustrated because she has no idea why she's the one being targeted, but she always moves forward. It takes her a while to move sometimes, but she's able to prioritize. She didn't get the chance to leave the tiny village out in Wales, but she's still able to grow and find happiness in her life. She didn't get to be an academic like Dave, but maybe that's for the best. 

I did worry that there was gonna be a love triangle, but it ended up being more of a "she's mine" kind of scenario with the guys while Elkie stopped wanting to have anything to do with them ages ago. I really do feel bad about what Dave does, and I was seriously hoping he would die from being maimed by a werewolf. Seriously. I told friends and family I'd be upset if he didn't die by the end of the book. While I didn't get what I wanted, I did end up getting a much better, and more fitting, ending. 

There is no question that this was a good book for me to pick up. It's a bit of a new adult book (a lot of talk of sex, but it's only in passing) and there is a lot of death (but nothing's ever graphically depicted). So if you're sensitive to those things maybe not the best book for you. 

However, if you're interested in a strong female lead who is able to survive 25+ encounters with werewolves while still making her life what she wants it to be, pick this up. I think you'll like it. 4.5 hoots!

               Hoot!Hoot!

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                     Hoo


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Villain's Sidekick | Stephen T. Brophy | Mini-Review


Review:

This book is only about 100 pages, yet in that short amount of time, Brophy creates an engaging, memorable story with a surprisingly sympathetic main character. HandCannon works for The Eye and he's messed up, yet again, against Nightguard (the local superhero). He's given a chance to redeem himself and keep his job, but it's the same weekend that his ex-wife finally lets his little daughter visit him. I absolutely loved that HandCannon was so practical in his approach on everything. He even said he's not the monologuing type, highfalutin type. He is genuinely trying to make the best of the hand he's been dealt. This story ended up having so many things in it: action, mystery, comedy and even horror. I happily give this 4 hoots and encourage you to pick up a copy!

               Hoot!Hoot!

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

New Praetorians 1 - Sienna McKnight | R. K. Syrus

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

Summary:

As someone who was nearly murdered in utero, Sienna knows you gotta fight to survive. It's written into her soul by the scars she still bears from the attempted homicide. Adopted by a military couple, one of whom was the medic who saved her, Sienna grew up in North Carolina and was trained from an early age on how to survive even the strangest of circumstances. When she becomes the youngest person made Army Colonel since the Civil War and the youngest woman made Army Colonel ever, she pulls the strings she needs to get back to her mother's homeland, Khorasan, and find her cousin, the man who killed her mother and tried to kill her as well.

Review:

This novella has certainly peaked my interest and I'm definitely wanting to continue reading the following books in this series. It was a little difficult to get into at first. The first several chapters like to skip forward in time, giving us a survey of Sienna's life and the world we're in. I remember being a bit disappointed that the book didn't center around the events in Antarctica that introduced the Ansible, that is later used for Sienna's weaponry. Instead, the next chapter skips ahead to the aftermath when her team, except her boyfriend, are fully recovered and she's a Colonel. 

The story we end up getting to focus on is her first real attempt at revenge. There are some flashbacks mixed in as well as a spiritual journey when she's out cold and her body has been fused with Ansible technology. The mission that she's taken her team, The Dogs, out for is supposed to be a quick grab-and-go. It almost succeeds. Along the way we get to learn a lot of important information about her team and why they are her team. This team is crazy in a way that balances out everyone else's crazy. T-rex, Snakelips, Whitebread, Nobu and Sarge all have distinct personalities and quirks that, to me, never feel like caricatures. I really felt they were real people.

The world is near-future Military Sci-Fi so you get some interesting technologies, most of them medical and warfare. We are introduced to the world in a time when that warfare technology is going through a possible scientific upgrade, thanks to the Ansible. The medical technology was always credited to DARPA and was frequently seen due to several opening chapters taking place in a Veteran's Hospital But there were also little technologies that I liked as well. Sienna's West Point class ring will also display little holograms of her achievements in and out of the academy. The first hospital we see has service bots for grunt work (though the way Ennis treated the one, I expect a robot uprising in a future book). So the world is similar, yet different. The technology is interesting, and it feels like we're learning about the new technology at the same pace as the characters.

This was an interesting read. Once I got into the book, I greatly appreciated Sienna's intelligence. She was not a character I had to yell at for doing something stupid. Some of the transitions felt a little disorienting, but, overall, I am intrigued by this world and its characters. Each novella will take the point of view of a different character and the next character is Sarge, Sienna's adoptive uncle who clearly knows more than he lets on. 

I am very entertained by this world, despite some of the writing being a bit rough. It does get a little bloody, and there is a scene with a child bomber, so probably not a book for the faint of heart. But if you're interested in starting a new novella series in this genre, I do recommend picking this one up. It's definitely a good start to, hopefully, a great series. 3.5 Hoots!

                  Hoot!

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                   Hoo