Saturday, March 16, 2019

Immortal | Nick Lloyd

*Book provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

The aliens have come, and they weren't subtle about it. Worldwide, every telecommunications device displays the same message: We are 'Aliens' You must obey us in full to survive A Gamma Ray Burst will arrive in 164 Earth days. Humans have no way of verifying the danger or the intent, but they can verify the signal is somewhere past Neptune. The next several months are spent following instructions from the aliens, while still trying to determine their true motives. 


Review:

This book hit on a lot of my own personal worries and unreasonable phobias. We get to read about the risks of trading your personal data for free services, even if some of them are life-saving. And we get visited by aliens who are far superior to us in terms of technological capabilities. Yeah, this one hit a few of my fear sectors. 

 Almost the entire time I was secretly hoping it would end up being an elaborate hoax led by the characters MacDonald (an billionaire with a strong survival instinct) and his right-hand man, Charlie (a programmer who created code that makes NPCs in games capable of independent thought). Not much of a spoiler but, no, the aliens are real. Very real. And they've stationed hundreds of A-Gravs (think Space Storage Container) design to help humanity accomplish the goals of saving Earth.

Then we get the stories of Tim and Sam who developed a program called MIDAS that is capable of disseminating, analyzing and correlating data, in this case, personal data, right down to their DNA. Because she had been a victim of identity theft after her disabling car accident, Sam is very strict about making sure the data is anonymized (even if she never thinks it'll be enough). She even makes sure to set flags in place in case that anonymization is compromised. At the same time, they need to balance this out with MacDonald's demands. Tim keeps pushing Sam to 'play nice' so they can get paid the big bucks. She knows he wants that payout so she can get a surgery to give her back full control of her legs, but she's not willing to risk others going through what she did with the identity theft. It makes for a very interesting back-and-forth. 

I absolutely loved Sam, and not just because she's a gamer girl and we get to see advances in gaming. In this world, virtual headsets are commonplace, and NPCs are way more advanced (I love Skyrim NPCs, but dang they're dumb!). Sam and her team, called "Bruised and Broken Bitches" because they're an all female, all wheelchair bound team, are highly competitive in tournaments. They're even a top tier team. She also gets to show us about the ways disabled people are treated. Some see her in a wheelchair and immediately look for a leg cast, others treat her only with pity, others argue that if she's able to get around on crutches (even if for just a short time) she's not really disabled. And that, coupled with Sam's "screw you, I've got this" mentality makes her, in my opinion, the strongest character in this book. And that's even compared to Colonel Martel who is not someone to screw around with. 

To make things even more interesting and realistic, Lloyd gives us the multiple attitudes towards the aliens that we would expect. There are the people who believe that their arrival heralds a new religious movement. There are people who immediately think that the aliens are there to destroy everyone. He even breaks down the middle group into cautious pessimists and cautious optimists. It really helped to make everything feel more real. 

This book was a very nice read. A very human story in a book about alien arrival. I happily give 4 hoots and encourage you to pick up a copy!

              Hoot!Hoot!

              Hoot!Hoot!





Saturday, February 23, 2019

Mensch Marks | Joshua Hammerman

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

Summary:

A collection of essays reprinted and updated where needed about Rabbi Hammerman's career and life trying to be a mensch, a good person. These essays are also his attempt to bring mensch into the common vernacular, much like chutzpah and schmuck. These essays cover a range of topics from personal failing and forgiveness to interfaith support to importance of just being human in today's seemingly inhuman world.

Review:

I'm buying this book. I'm not Jewish, I don't go to any church, but I am buying this book. It's a great help for anyone who just wants to try to do some good in the world but doesn't know where to begin. This book really helped me out when I was going through a really tough time. I'm buying this book.

It doesn't take much to be a good person and this book takes you through several steps towards becoming a real mensch. Hammerman repeatedly discusses why such things are needed in today's world. Yes, it can be difficult but it can also be very rewarding. Hammerman doesn't just discuss the times he succeeded. He owns up to his failures but, most importantly, he discusses the lessons learned from these failures.

Hammerman also delves into his past throughout the book. The essays don't follow a particular timeline, opting for a thematic organization. We see how Hammerman has dealt with the consequences of being the son of clergy to trying to help his own children keep from living the "life in a fishbowl" he had to. We see his own physical, spiritual and mental struggles from the beginning and middle of his career as a Rabbi. Most importantly, we see how human he is and how being human is important to our everyday lives.

I was very happy to read this book. I look forward to its release when I can purchase it. You don't even have to be spiritual to enjoy this book. Yes, there are a lot of Biblical and Talmudic references, but Hammerman's book is about how you can be both human and a mensch at the same time. I highly recommend this book for those who are tired of all the hate but don't know where to begin on changing that hate. 5 hoots!

Hoot!Hoot!

Hoot!Hoot!

Hoot!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America | Matt Kracht | Mini-Review

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

Review:

This book was a laugh that I've been needing. There were times when I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. And, at the same time, it's genuinely informative! Kracht does a wonderful job of letting the humor and the facts shine through and it is a winning combination. There is a lot of strong language, so it's probably not a good book to share with your kids. However, if you or someone you know seems to have a vendetta against birds, this is a great book for them. If you're looking for a good place to start adding bird watching to your hobbies, this is a great book for that. It not only identifies common North American birds but Kracht also gives some genuinely good advice on starting your own bird watching journal, how to do bird watching in the different seasons, and even what kinds of bird feeders work best. I really enjoyed this book and am happy to give it four hoots!

              Hoot!Hoot!

              Hoot!Hoot!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Book of Ill Deeds | Phaedra Weldon


Summary:

Ginger Blackstone comes from a family of witches. She'd tried to do something else with her life, but ended up back home with her grandmother, Mama D, just in time for Mama D to be arrested on suspicion of murder. Over the next week or so, Ginger works to clear her grandmother and sister's names while trying to get a hold on the crush she has for the new doctor in town, and learning about this new black cat trying to become her familiar. 


Review:

This book was a lot of fun to read. It's got a lot of laughs. It's a short book so everything is straight to the point. Any and all history or world building is built into the plot. The reveal of who the murderer is isn't much of a surprise, but it was still a fun trip to follow.

I absolutely loved Ginger. She is a delightful main character whom I identified with on a few levels. I enjoyed the fact that she didn't have a full handle on her life but still knew how to be a competent adult. And Mama D! What a wonderful character to have in the mix! She is probably one of my favorite witch characters ever just because she is so good at what she does. David, the love interest, was a good guy, though his character presented a few more questions than answered. That being said, the chemistry between all the characters made for a fun read.

And let us not forget the familiars. Ginger starts out as a witch who's never had a familiar but through her initial interactions with Max and through Mama D's interactions with Bert, we learn a lot of what it is a familiar can do and does for their witch. And the importance of having a witch is something I've never thought of before but Max is very adamant about.

I think I may have to admit, I like Chick Lit. Specifically I seem to like Chick Lit with supernatural characters and a strong sense of humor. This is probably the third or fourth book I've read with the whole modern witch thing and I've enjoyed them all. So, yes. This is the book that gets me to admit, I like Chick Lit. As someone who regularly gives 5/5 ratings to books with giant robots and that are action heavy, hopefully that'll give you a good idea of how good this book is.

The world of Castle Falls is a very interesting one and, I'll admit, I'm interested in the other books in this series. As of writing this review the book itself is free on Kindle. The next book is $3 but I'm still very tempted. I happily give 4 hoots and encourage you to pick up a copy.

Hoot!Hoot!

Hoot!Hoot!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Animal Lore and Legend | Ruth Binney | Mini-Review

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

Review:

This book had a lot of what I expected: Old Wive's Tales about animals, animal roles in mythology, how some beliefs about animals may have formed. I'll admit, I wasn't expecting the information on the mythological animals (though I should've guessed from the unicorn on the cover). I did learn several things from this book that I didn't know before. Unfortunately, it was kinda boring and was very Western Culture oriented. There were references to Japanese and Chinese mythology and an entire chapter dedicated to the Chinese Astrology, but they weren't very informative. The entire Chinese Astrology chapter was almost painfully basic. I got more from the Western Astrology chapter. Ultimately, it was an okay book but there's a lot of room for improvement.

               Hoot!Hoot!

                    Hoot!



Saturday, January 19, 2019

Batman: No Man's Land | Greg Rucka


Summary:

The novelization of the graphic novel story line by the same name, Batman: No Man's Land takes us through Gotham's fall and attempted survival. After a massive earthquake leaves Gotham in shambles, the United States Government decides Gotham isn't worth the many millions, if not billions, of dollars it would take to restore it. They officially cut off Gotham from all government aide and declare it No Man's Land. The only people left are those who are either forced to stay, due to economic situations, or who choose to stay for the sake of power, chaos or to try to help those left behind. But when Batman is a no show for three months, people begin to think he, too, has abandoned them.

Review:

I was introduced to this book because I expressed a love of novelizations of comic books (seriously, Hellboy novels are the best!!!) I am happy to say that this book did not disappoint. I'm not much of a DC fan, I'm more of a Dark Horse Comics person, but Batman is almost always the exception. And, in this case, I am happy to have made that exception and give this book a try. 

Because it's a Batman book, one shouldn't be surprised at how much death, blood, fighting, etc. there is. It isn't gory, by any means, but it's definitely not meant for a younger or particularly squeamish audience. Rucka does a wonderful job of keeping the darkness and grit of a true Batman story without going into extensive, unnecessary levels of detail. 

As someone who only occasionally reads Batman, there were a lot of characters I didn't know. That being said, I had no problems getting into the story. There were occasions when I wanted to look up characters, some of which I ended up remembering from the cartoon series, but for the most part, it's very easy to "get" the characters. You learn who they are through their interactions with others and when the story is told from their viewpoint. You don't have to be an avid Batman reader to enjoy the story or understand the characters' motivations. 

And there are a LOT of characters in this book. So many classic Batman villains, a character or two from another comic series (no spoilers beyond that), as well as the multiple iterations of Batgirl and Robin, and the Gotham City Police Department too. Because the novelization is based on an already written comic story, I'm not sure how much credit goes to Rucka for balancing the characters and how much goes to Jordan B. Gorfinkel, who wrote the original story. I may have to end up reading the comics to find out. As it is, though, we get several view points from several characters, but it never feels disjointed or convoluted.

I really did enjoy this book and was happy I picked it up. It's a dark and gritty tale that is fitting of a Batman story. If you're more of a fan of thrillers, this might be a good crossover book to get you interested in comics. If you're a comic fan, this might be a good book to get you interested in novels. Overall, I happily give 3.5 hoots.

              Hoot!Hoot!

               Hoot!Hoo

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Ghosts of Gotham | Craig Schaefer | Mini-Review

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


Review:

I've been trying to get some more Urban Fantasy or Urban Supernatural books into my reading. Ghosts of Gotham was a very nice step into an unfamiliar genre. It was a bloody step (lots of violence) but it was a good step as well. The overall story of a reporter trying to find real magic, and uncovering a lot of con artists along the way, as a way of finding out what really happened to him and his mother all those years ago is certainly entertaining and interesting. It was especially engaging to read Lionel's "conversion" from one reality to another, skepticism and all. The villain was clever and powerful. Maddie, Lionel's new teacher, was relatable (for someone as old as she is) and I loved how truly intelligent and innovative she was. Overall, this was an enjoyable read. The ending was predictable, but still a fitting one. I happily give 3.5 hoots!

               Hoot!Hoot!

               Hoot!Hoo