Tag Archives: book reviews

Goodreads Quick Review: Mass Effect: Revelation

Mass Effect: Revelation
Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Karpyshyn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mass Effect: Revelation was released before the first Mass Effect game came out, and appropriately so. This novel provides an excellent introduction to the Mass Effect universe, and I highly recommend reading it before starting the games. Although you won’t really miss anything if you skip the novel, conversations in-game with Anderson pretty much spoil the plot of this book. The book also provides a great deal of backstory for both Anderson and Saren, two notable characters in the Mass Effect universe.

On the bright side, this novel provides a shining beacon of hope for video game novels. Proof that they can be written well anyway, as most hold poor writing quality. If I were to rate this book in comparison to all video game novels I would give it a perfect 5 stars. However I am judging this book based on its merits in the sci-fi genre. A perfectly serviceable entry, but nothing truly noteworthy.

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Goodreads Quick Review: Making Money

Making Money
Making Money by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Throughout the middle of the story, protagonist Moist Von Lipwig constantly remarks “I don’t want to deal with (X Problem); I want to go back to making money!” Moist himself appears to lament the issue of too many subplots overtaking the main story. Yet the problem is a catch-22, for if Moist were allowed to simply focus on his original goal, to make money using his paper currency gambit, the entire narration would be all too similar to his previous adventure in Going Postal. Add to the troubles an overly bombastic villain whose personality dooms him from the beginning, and it is all too easy to see why Corporal Nobbs cannot get a bet against Moist winning.

Speaking of the City Watch, Pratchett has all but yielded to the fact that he simply cannot keep the City Watch out of any Anhk-Morpork-based story. Although their presence is significantly higher as the crimes get more noticeable, the Watch once again manages to avoid stealing the spotlight. Pratchet deserves credit for subtly introducing the mannerisms of his Watch characters to new readers in such a way that veterans avoid growing bored at the umpteenth re-introduction.

Just as Vimes proved himself to Vetinari way back in Guards! Guards!, so did Moist prove himself back in Going Postal. As another favorite chess piece of Vetinari, the outcome is inevitable. As is the case in similar Discworld books, the journey, not the destination provides the hilarious fun and thrills. So where can Moist go from here? Who knows? Maybe one day he will be tasked with running the entire city. A very possible outcome, if something happens to Vetinari and Carrot declines his birthright.

Vetinari remarks at the climax of the book that killing Moist would solve all of his immediate problems. Fortunately for Moist, the magnificent mastermind Vetinari always thinks ahead and knows how to milk a person for all he’s worth. Fortunate as well for the reader, as this means another Moist adventure will be waiting in the wings.

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Goodreads Quick Review: Storm Front

Storm Front
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Believe it or not I have never read The Dresden files. Rest assured I am now working on correcting this oddity. In any event, my only complaint about this book was that it was over too quickly. Seriously, this is probably the fastest 300 page book I’ve ever read.

Ok, I should add a few more words. Stormfront combines my two favorite things in one novel: well thought out magic and the noir style. That’s not something you usually see at the same time. Dresden is a cynical, powerful man out to clear his name. Yet despite the power Dresden possesses, he never once ventures into sue-mode territory. Dresden is plenty capable of both kicking ass and getting his ass kicked. Usually the former happens right after the latter. Magic aside, it’s almost too…human. Hopefully in future novels Dresden will remember to keep a better grip on his staff and various other magical implements.

A common complaint I have about the first novel in any series is the lack of a fleshed-out world. To this end, I argue that you should frequently start your protagonist around the middle of his career. It gives the writer two directions in time to work with instead of just one. The best writers bring the reader into a well-developed world right off the first page, and the reader is so carefully introduced that he/she is never confused. It is clear that Butcher spent a great deal of time fleshing out his world, his characters and the overall plot arc long before this book hit shelves. Signature noir introduction of Dresden’s business aside, it would be easy to mistake this book for the third or fourth entry into the series. The characters and setting are that well detailed, while never confusing the reader.

So The Dresden Files and Discworld will now be competing for reading time in the near future. I have a lot of catching up to do with both.

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Goodreads Quick Review: Going Postal

Going Postal
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

33 books in, and Pratchett continues to breath new life into his epic fantasy world with a new main character – Moist Von Lipwig. Moist is a delightfully human character, complete with token flaws and inner struggles to overcome. Recurring character Vetinari also makes a big appearance, and the Ankh-Morpork leader is on top of his game this time around.

Unfortunately for Moist, the plot doesn’t give him enough room to really work his character. While there are plenty of awesome moments to enjoy, the overall story suffers from uneven pacing and oddly placed fluff. To be fair, Pratchett is working with a new character, and the plot oddities never distract the reader too long. Forced cameos also pop in and out to help support Moist, who is interesting enough without these random appearances…yes we know everyone loves the Watch, but several times they show up in this book (with none of their personality) to be “Hey! It’s me, Carrot!”

Going Postal gives readers hope for more fresh and innovative Discworld adventures. Pratchett just needs a few more books to give Moist a chance to stretch his legs.

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The Blood That Bonds Book Review

Title: The Blood That Bonds

Author: Christopher Buecheler

Scope: Paranormal (vampire) romance/thriller.

In the midst of Twilight-copiers out there, it is very refreshing to finally read a book that does not turn the vampire genre into an overly dumbed-down romanticized mess. Don’t get me wrong, The Blood That Bonds is very much a romance novel with a good blend of thriller elements. However what you have here is a far more serious, complex story than the silly little Bella/Edward romance that tweens everywhere adore. This is Twilight for adults.

Ironically, at its core, The Blood That Bonds is actually rather similar to Twilight. Theroen (punny name, as you’ll soon see upon reading) vampire living for hundreds of years somehow falls in love with Two, a 19 year old prostitute enslaved by heroin (okay that’s not like Twilight) and complications arise. What makes this better than Twilight is that the author clearly has a much better grasp of how to write a compelling romance novel than Meyer and it shows in the writing. This is particularly true in the characters. In the Twilight series, characters come and go, attached at the hip to the Bella/Edward romance. Most characters only have as much importance as the main romance allows, and are otherwise pretty shallow outside of some backstory that may or may not actually be relevant. In The Blood That Bonds, every character, even the minor ones, evoke very strong emotions. You will love some, despise others, you will hold active interest in everyone’s fate, not just that of Two/Theroen.

Do not worry, there is still plenty enough romance to go around, but there is also more, so much more. It is cruelly realistic (ironic word choice I know) in its romantic storytelling. Although some obvious tropes are employed, the story remain fresh enough to keep you turning the pages until the very end. Buecheler does a great job of creating a deep vampire society with all sorts of varied clans that is only touched upon in this novel. That is part of the beauty of it though, as you can tell throughout the story that Buecheler wrote this book intending it to be the first in a series. He wrote it with clear awareness of what he wants to reveal now and save until later, as opposed to developing it as he continues the series. Although a degree of resolution is reached by the end of the novel, there are plenty enough questions that will leave you eager to continue reading.

Like I said, this novel is Twilight for adults. As such, I cannot easily recommend this one to the tweenage fangirl crowd. Foul-language is abound in this novel, including plenty of uses of the F-word. Prostitution and addictive drug-use serves as a backstory for a few characters, including the main heroine (pun intended) and there are explicit references to all of this happening to a 12-year old girl as well. Suffice to say the beginning of this novel is not a pretty sight to behold in terms of rough times, consider yourself warned. That aside, I highly recommend this novel for young adults and older folk who thought Twilight was pretty good but want something more serious, and likewise for the Twilight-haters that who want to sink their teeth into a good vampire romance.

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Childhood Books, Childhood Memories

I’ve decided to try a few new things out. I won’t give out any details…yet, but it will be interesting to see where these things go, if anywhere.

In the meantime I’ve been doing some Spring Cleaning, and in the process came across a bunch of books from my childhood years. I read even more when I was a kid than I do today, so naturally I had a lot of books stored! Applegate, Bruce Coville, lots of good authors gained my interest as a child of the 90’s. Glancing through them all brought back some fond memories, both of the book itself and the times in my life when I read them. Unfortunately they are taking up too much space so I will probably end up donating them to a local book charity in Baltimore. I feel a bit bad about doing so, like I’m giving up part of my childhood with these books, but if kids out there will read them one day and experience the same joy as I did as a kid, it will definitely be worth it. 🙂

I’ll be posting another book review this weekend. Roseflower Creek was a dark read, but oh so powerful.

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Phenomenal Girl 5: The Elite Hands of Justice Book Review

Title: Phenomenal Girl 5: The Elite Hands of Justice

Author: A.J. Menden

Scope: Young adult romance – with a dash of superheroes.

Phenomenal Girl 5, better known as Lainey, is living the superhero cadet dream. She has the traditional superpowers of flight, super strength, and feminine charms to match. On top of that, she just got accepted into the Elite Hands of Justice (EHJ for short – the in-universe equivalent of the Justice League of America) and is ready to join the “real” superheros that stop world-ending apocalypses as opposed to simpleton bank robbers!

…or so she thinks.

Lainey first has to get through an internship of sorts with the Reincarnist, a superhero that as the name implies, constantly dies and revives with various inconveniences like memory loss. Along the way, workplace romance blossoms, Lainey learns what superhero life is really about, and the resulting story becomes something along the lines of Stephanie Meyer watching the first few episodes of Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles and then writing Twilight with superheroes instead of vampires.

Sounding like a crazy romance novel with no clue where it is going, eh? Well such is the main problem with Phenomenal Girl #5. Judging from a lot of average/negative reviews I’ve seen for this novel, readers are coming into the story expecting Phenomenal Girl #5 to be a superhero story with romantic elements. It is not. What we have here is a romance story with superhero elements. While the first quarter of the book promises to be an intriguing superhero story regarding mysterious villains and prophecies, that whole “love at first sight” cliche abruptly takes over with Lainey and the Reincarnist. While the mysterious villain plot slowly but surely gets off the ground resulting in a true super-heroic apocalypse story, superpowered romance fun is always at the forefront, leaving people who wanted to read a superhero story constantly shouting “get back to the action already!”

Rather unfortunate really, as although the main romance plot has some fun moments despite  being somewhat contrived (if you thought the speed and convenience of the Bella/Edward romance in Twilight was silly, this book certainly takes it to the logical extreme) there are some really interesting subplots that are never fully developed. In this world superhero life is all about politics, with flashy displays of heroism and good publicity being more important than…say the actual core values of helping people in trouble.  An ensemble of interesting superheroes are explored consisting of both close friends of Lainey and EHJ member alike, but outside of a few bullet point characteristics that you’d draw up in one fiction workshop sitting you do not learn much about most of them. Though considering this is but the first book in the series, and the sequel hooks the reader is left with, I have the feeling these subplots will find more development in future novels.

On the bright side, the major characters are well thought out and they show rich development as the novel advances along its quick pace. Lainey grows and matures well enough through the chaos and calamity that develops, but I have to give extra praise to The Reincarnist. Without spoiling anything, the things he goes through as the story progresses provides a very tricky writing challenge, and Menden navigates the character with flying colors.

In the end, Phenomenal Girl 5: The Elite Hands of Justice is a fantastic read for those who like a romance novel with a little bit of punch. If you know a Twilight-fan who does not mind a little bit of action and intrigue slightly beyond that of a Saturday morning cartoon mixed in with their romance, I would highly recommend this book. People who want strict superhero fiction and mystery should look elsewhere.

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