Saturday, May 18, 2013

Review: Magnificent Malevolence: Memoirs of a Career in Hell by Derek Wilson

Synopsis: From the Archives of Low Command: Ministry of Misinformation: This remarkable manuscript outlines the career of the prominent devil, Crumblesit S.O.D. (Order of the Sons of Darkness, 1st Class). Crumblewit provides a fiendish appraisal of the struggles between good and evil which dominated human affairs in the period from 1942 (when the great Screwtape's Leters were released to the world) to the present. Crumblewit's energies were deployed in the religious arena, undermining the attempts of Christians to carry out the mission entrusted to them by the Unmentionable One. The account in pleasingly distorted by ti's author's truly diabolical conceit and capacity for self-delusion. It sheds a very satisfying light n the tribulations experience by humans throughout this period. (From the back of the book)

Review: This book is billed as pseudo-sequel to C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters - a book that holds a special place in my life. I was eager to read Wilson's work. At first, I was pleased. The book begins well, with Crumblewit's cogent explanations of how he manipulated humans using their own weaknesses. But as the book went on, I was less thrilled. I'm not sure it's far to compare Wilson's work to Lewis's, but there is hardly a way not to. Lewis spoke in broad terms, grounding his book in basic Christian testaments and theology. Wilson did not. He used to many specific cases, narrowing the focus. Several times, I felt he was using the prose as a veil for his own personal beliefs about things (like faith healing, internet, large churches) that, while I don't necessarily disagree with - aren't things in the Bible one can firmly say yea-or-nay on. Wilson's book is weaker then Lewis' and lacks that same soul-deep punch, that awakening that one finds in the Lewis' work. I compare it to the sequel written to Austen's Pride and Prejudice - they are amusing to read, but none compare to the original. And while it may be unfair to make such a comparison, the author invited just that by writing the sequel.
While I would not praise this book to the heavens, I will mention it to people I know who enjoy C.S. Lewis - being that I consider it worth reading and I'm interested in their opinions.

Note: I received this book free from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 5-17-2013
Pages: 239

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Synopsis: Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

Review: I adored this book! Funny, action-packed, with just the right touch of heart and mystery. Atticus is just the sort of main character that makes a book great, and his dog makes it even better. I loved the new light on old stories, the world-building, the mix of ancient mythologies from many cultures, and the use of a druid. I've seen plenty of werewolf/vampire/witch main character, but a druid? That is so cool! And I enjoyed the take on druid magic, the idea of earth as power, the tattoos, iron necklace - all delightful and marvelous to read. And yes, there is a werewolf pack and an vampire - but they don't sparkle or fall in love with vapid girls. They kick ass - as lawyers. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to read an original urban fantasy.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 5-12-2013
Pages: 304

Review: Falling Blind by Shannon K. Butcher

Synopsis: A beautiful, independent Theronai, Rory Rainey knows that her attempts to be a warrior are futile—unless she can stop the demonic visions that torment her. Determined to be free, Rory sets out to find the mysterious guardian who can cure her, before she loses her sight—or her life. But Rory’s journey brings its own dangers when she is attacked by a pack of Synestryn sent by the demon lord Raygh. Cornered and desperate, Rory narrowly escapes with the help of a sword-wielding stranger. Cain knows that Rory needs his protection to survive, just as he knows that her power is compatible with his own. And when Rory binds herself to Cain, the warrior knows he will do anything to keep her safe from the threat of the demon lord that pursues her….  

Review: I gobbled up this series and then had to wait nearly a year for the next book. This one. And then I purchased this one. And read it in 12 hours. And now I have to wait for the next one. How do I know there will be a next one? Because, as with all the previous, there are stories that arc through the entire series that haven't been resolved yet.
This particular story centered around Cain, a character we've seen in several past stories, as a secondary character. At the end of the last book, a significant event happened, causing a large life change for Cain. I was glad to see the next book focused on him. The heroine, Rory, we met briefly in Blood Hunt, a friend of that book's main character. I have a special affection for authors who weave past characters into current stories.
Now, for the story itself, this wasn't my favorite. I had a hard time connecting with the characters, or really getting into their romance. But it was still a good story. There were some twists, a nice blend of action and slower moments, and some amusing interactions between secondary characters. Past characters revolve around them, and it was nice to see them again - especially to see the progression of their relationships and their reaction to this new relationship.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 5-5-2013
Pages: 382

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Mecha Rogue by Brett Patton (The Armor Wars Book II)

Synopsis: Matt Lowell is the hottest new recruit in the Universal Union’s select group of pilots. Their job—control the supremely powerful biochemical robotic avatars known as Mecha. Now, the Prime of Universal Union herself has offered him an unprecedented opportunity: return to Earth to train a new elite force for a covert mission that’s imperative to the future of the Union. When he and his team embark on their mission—on a border world that may be a target for the anarchical Corsairs—Matt finds that everything is not as it seems. The world is home to a dark secret that underlies the very foundation of the Union itself, and suddenly Matt doesn’t know which side he and his mighty Mecha should be fighting for—or against. (from the back of the book)
Review: I enjoyed this book more then the first. Matt's character is challenged and expanded, and faces real conflict. He's forced to confront the truth about the main belief that drives him. Not that this made the story suddenly deep and full of moral questions. It's still your basic action story - lots of grabbling mecha, explosions and dire situations only the hero can resolve. And that is why I like it. Enjoyable, fun, fast paced - and there were even a few surprises. I recommend this book to people who enjoy action style sci-fi.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finshed: 4-25-2013
Pages: 359

Review: Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

Synopsis: Ashley Hannigan doesn't care about the prom, but she's the exception. It's pretty much the only good thing that happens in her urban Philadelphia high school, and everyone plans to make the most of it—especially Ash’s best friend, Natalia, who’s the head of the committee and has prom stars in her eyes. Then the faculty advisor is busted for taking the prom money and Ash finds herself roped into putting together a gala dance. But she has plenty of help—from her large and loving (if exasperating!) family, from Nat’s eccentric grandmother, from the principal, from her fellow classmates. And in making the prom happen, Ash learns some surprising things about making her life happen, too.

Review: This was a marvelous book - but then, every book by Anderson I've read is marvelous. Weaving humor, real life, love, family and the quirkiness of human nature with a deft hand, Anderson creates a story that both amused and touched me. The main character, Ash, was well-done - part young woman, part child, she struggles to find herself and her direction. The ending was perfect - not the happy-ending from fairy tales, but the ending one finds in life - messy and scary but full of hope.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 4-17-2013
Pages: 215

Review: Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher

Synopsis: Psychologist Elizabeth Cole prepared for the worst when she accepted a job on a newly discovered world--a world where every colonist is tethered to an alien who manifests in the form of a dead loved one. But she never expected she'd struggle with the requirement to shun these "ghosts." She never expected to be so attracted to the charming Irishman assigned as her supervisor. And she certainly never expected to discover she died in a transport crash en route to the planet. Reincarnated as a ghost, Elizabeth is symbiotically linked to her supervisor, Murphy--creator of the Ghost Protocol, which forbids him to acknowledge or interact with her. Confused and alone--oppressed by her ghost status and tormented by forbidden love--Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence. But her quest for answers lands her in a tug-of-war between powerful interests, and she soon finds herself a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet...a struggle that could separate her forever from the man that she loves.

Review: I purchased this book because the premise intrigued me. I was not disappointed. The world-building is clever and well-done, the characters have deep and fullness, and I enjoyed the developing relationship between the two main characters. The secondary characters added complexity and the twist at the end was mostly unexpected. In particular, I was pleased at the romance. It wasn't instant and it had realistic struggles. I will read more from this author and I've already recommend this book to other people.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 4-17-2013
Pages: 342

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Review: Mecha Corps by Brett Patton (The Armor Wars, Book I)

Synopsis: Matt Lowell is in hell-and there's no place he'd rather be. At a training camp on the backwater planet of Earth, he and his fellow cadets are learning to ride Mechas: biomechanicals sporting both incredible grace and devastating firepower. Their ultimate aim is to combat the pirates of the Corsair Confederacy, but before they survive a battle, they have to survive their training. ecause every time Lowell and his comrades "plug in" to their Mechas, their minds are slowly being twisted and broken by an unseen power that is neither man...nor machine. (from the back of the book)

Review: I'm not sure why I picked up this book in Barnes and Noble. Probably because I've been playing too much Battletech. Anyhoo, the first bit is a little boring, and I probably would have stopped reading if it first portion didn't take place in Florida, Cape Canaveral, where I grew up. But as I keep reading, the story got better - so much so that I was eager to finish the book, to see what happened. The world building was clever and enjoyable, a little heavy on the revenge angst, but overall - a fine novel. I very much enjoyed the Mecha, thhe idea and design behind these machines. Being a Demonrider sounds awesome! In the end, I liked it enough I purchased the second and would recommend to anyone looking for a fun sci-fi read.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 4-15-2013
Pages: 324

Review: The Kingdoms of Dust by Amanda Downum (The Necromancer Chronicles, Book III)

Synopsis: With her master dead and her oaths foresworn, necromancer and spy Isyllt Iskaldur finds herself in exile. Hounded by assassins, she seeks asylum in Assar, the empire she so recently worked to undermine. Warlords threaten the empire's fragile peace, and the empress is beset by enemies within the court. Even worse, darkness stirs in the deep desert. Ancient spirits long held captive are waking - spirits that can destroy Assar faster than any army. Accompanied by an outcast jinn, Isyllt must travel into the heart of the desert to lay the darkness there to rest once more. But her sympathies are torn between the captive spirits and the order of mages sworn to bind them. And whichever choice she makes could raze the empire to dust.

Reveiw: Like the last two, we get to visit a new country, one of sand and sun - and no ghosts. Mystery, death, jinn and mantacores abound. Isyllt faces assassins, heat, lost love and loss of purpose. Again, I enjoyed the new characters, and the return of familiar ones, and the deepening understanding of Isyllt's character and past. And her growth as a person was well written. I enjoyed seeing her solutions for the mystery and how it contributed to her as a person. I'm excited to see where we get to go next!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 4-12-2013
Pages: 378

Review: The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum (The Necromancer Chronicles, Book II)

Synopsis: Death is no stranger in the city of Erisín-- but some deaths attract more attention than others. When a prostitute dies carrying a royal signet, Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and agent of the Crown, is called to investigate. Her search leads to desecrated tombs below the palace, and the lightless vaults of the vampiric vrykoloi deep beneath the city. But worse things than vampires are plotting in Erisín...
As a sorcerous plague sweeps the city and demons stalk the streets, Isyllt must decide who she's prepared to betray, before the city built on bones falls into blood and fire.

Review: After reading the first in the series, I was eager to return to this world. In this story, we get to go with Isyllt to her home city of Erisin, a different from Symir as possible. I adored the new characters introduced - in particular the Queen and the Mistress. We also learn more about Isyllt's magic and the other magic, how one learns magic and what magic gone awry can do. The story moved briskly, with intrigue. The twist at the end, I only half expected, which was nice. Again, I adored this book and highly recommend - only make sure to begin with book one.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: Shortlisted for the 2010 James Tiptree, Jr. Award; Nominated for the 2011 Spectrum Award for Best Novel

Date Finished: 4-8-2013
Pages: 469

Review: The Drowning City by Amanda Downum (The Necromancer Chronicles, Book I)

Synopsis: Symir - the Drowning City. home to exiles and expatriates, pirates and smugglers. And violent revolutionaries who will stop at nothing to overthrow the corrupt Imperial government. For Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and spy, the brewing revolution is a chance to prove herself to her crown. All she has to do is find and finance the revolutionaries, and help topple the palaces of Symir. But she is torn between her new friends and her duties, and the longer she stays in this monsoon-drenched city, the more intrigue she uncovers -- even the dead are plotting. As the waters rise and the dams crack, Isyllt must choose between her mission and the city she came to save. (From the back of the book)

Review: I picked this up on a whim at Barnes and Noble. It then sat on my shelf for ages. I'm glad. Because when I finally read it, two more were published and I was able to gobble them all up! I enjoyed the character if Isyllt: unsure, but confident; prone to rash choices with her heart but wise choices for her job, broken but strong, and complex. The world building was fantastic. Symir reminded me of a jungly Venice. I could almost smell the water, the trees, the heat and death. The magic, the politics, the scoop - it was imaginative, intriguing, finely crafted and layered. Told from the viewpoint of three women, the story moves at a good pace, sucking one in and not letting go. I highly recommend!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: Shortlisted for the 2009 David Gemmell Morningstar Award

Date Finished: 4-7-2013
Pages: 361

Review: Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo by Zlata Filipovic

Synopsis: Zlata Filipovic is eleven, living a peacful, happy childhood in Sarajevo. Then comes the war and the seige. Told over two years, her diary records the Seige of Sarajevo from the eyes of a child. She speaks of bombings, snipers, the death of friends and family, starvation and cold and the deep fear that comes with war.
Review: Haunting and amazing, this book left me sad and hopeful, mournful, but strong. Compared to Anne Frank, Zlata survived a horror by telling her story. Her strength, her perseverance give me courage and hope. I highly recommend.
Bookmarks: 8 of 10
Awards: None
Date Finished: 4-6-2013
Pages: 200

Review: Flesh by Kylie Scott

Synopsis: Ali has been hiding in an attic since civilization collapsed eight weeks ago. When the plague hit, her neighbors turned into mindless, hungry, homicidal maniacs. Daniel has been a loner his entire life. Then the world empties and he realizes that being alone isn't all it's cracked up to be. Finn is a former cop who is desperate for companionship, and willing to do anything it takes to protect the survivors around him. When the three cross paths they band together; sparks fly, romance blooms in the wasteland and Ali, Daniel and Finn bend to their very human needs in the ruins of civilization. Lust, love and trust all come under fire in Flesh as the three battles to survive, hunted through the suburban wastelands. (from the description)

Review: This is essential a paranormal erotic romance set in a zombie infected Australia. I enjoyed this take on zombie literature, being that is didn't focus too much on why the zombies happened. It did give an mostly accurate portrayal of what humans would do - the good and the bad. The romance was....meh. Mostly, it wasn't about love, but lust, convenience and dependence. But that stuff happens when people are scared and desperate. If you like steamy romances in sci-fi settings, this book is for you. If you don't like zombies or graphic romance scenes, stay away.

Prude Note: There is graphic M/F and M/M/F sex. You can skip it, but it does make up a larger-then-normal portion of the prose.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 4-4-2013
Pages: eBook

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review: Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst

Synopsis: Alexander get money from a grandparent, but the money proves hard to save. What will he do?

Review: A cute, and rather accurate, story of a child trying to save money - but being sidetracked by the things that sidetrack us all. A good story to help teach a child about money.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 4-2-2013
Pages: 17

Review: Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It?) Going to Move by Judith Viost

Synopsis: Alexander's family is moving. They say he has to move with them. But he doesn't want to . What will he do?

Review: This is the same Alexander for the more well-known Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I enjoyed this book. It's humorous, with well-done illustrations and a good message. I'd recommend this to anyone moving to a new city, with a child who may be having a difficult time with the transition. Alexander's emotions may help your own child express their sorrow and fear. Plus, if you have to read it a billion times, you'll be okay. It's not that bad.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 4-2-2013
Pages: 16