Sunday, April 7, 2019

Ash Kickers | Sean Grigsby

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

Summary:
In this sequel to Smoke Eaters, Tamerica Williams is bored with how things have changed. Instead of slaying dragons, the Smoke Eaters are just capturing them so their blood can be used as medicine. Unfortunately, her wish for "action" gets granted and she learns to be careful what you wish for. Now Tamerica has to deal with a never-before-seen phoenix that burns hotter than any dragon. Not to mention the legal trouble and civil unrest that she now has to incorporate into her daily WTF List.

Review:

I was a beta reader for this book so I was very curious to see what changes, if any had been made. I can't tell you what changed from that read to this one, but I can say, both readings put me through the emotional wringer, and I mean that in the best possible way. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book, especially after the second reading.

Though this is a sequel, I don't think you have to have read the first one to understand what's going on. It would certainly help, but this book almost feels like a world of its own. Almost all of the main characters we meet are ones from the last book so it would explain some of the relationships and stories.

My favorite part about this book is that we get to see so many new types of dragons and hear about so many more. Grigsby gets really creative with his dragons and their abilities. They range in size from a few feet to two-stories tall and everything in between. They range in their elements as well. We get to see an ice, water, fire, acid, flammable oil and more. Each one presents their own challenges and I loved finding out there's so many types!

Grigsby also does a nice job of incorporating contemporary concerns into this book set in the future. Since the dragonblood curate, Pantheon City's been getting an influx of people hoping for access to it for themselves and their families. Rather than embrace these fellow Americans, fellow humans, the PC First people decide to call them "rats" and demand they be removed from the city. They are very easy to hate and Grigsby does a wonderful job of making sure they are unsympathetic in every way and that every character we like knows that PC First are Nazi wannabes.

Then there's Tamerica (T), herself. She is an amazing character who goes through so much in such a short amount of time. She not only goes through the sudden responsibility of managing her own team, but she also has to take care of parents. On top of that, she endures the emotional pain of Survivor's Guilt while also enduring repeated physical pains of literally being burned by the hottest fire she's ever experienced. I was actually grateful when we got to see her break down once in a while because it really helped to empathize with her. She is human, an incredibly strong human, and Grigsby writes her as such.

This book was an incredible read into an ever expanding world. This series has been a wonderful adventure full of endearing characters that you want to see win the day. I happily give 5 hoots and encourage you to pick up a copy!

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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Radioactive Evolution | Richard Hummel

*Image and book provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Jared is a wanderer in the wastelands and, while not desperate for survival, he ain't living as easily as the rich people in the Floating Cities, high above the fallout. This changes when he finds an honest-to-god dragon and bonds with its baby. In bonding with the dragon, Scarlet, he uncovers a long lost plot from the cities, furthering the divide between those in the clouds and those on the ground. Between Scarlet's growing size and abilities and Jared's newfound powers, they have the means to bring justice for the long-lost dragon races as well as the civilians on the ground.

Review:

This was certainly an entertaining read. There was a lot of adventure, a lot of quick-thinking as well as strategy fights. There is a nice blend of action, comedy and even horror, and I'm not talking about the number to times Jared had to find new clothes because his were covered in giant rat guts.

If you're a fan of gaming, you'd probably enjoy several aspects of this book. If you're a Fallout fan, you'll definitely get some fun with this, as well as some of the horror. It gives some actual mechanics to a character's level-up and not needing to eat. It was actually pretty clever how Hummel set that up.

Unfortunately the editing appears incomplete. The telepathic conversations between Scarlet and Jared are identified with her voice in bold and his voice in italics. Throughout the book, or at least my copy of it, there were a lot of mishaps with this. The pacing of the book felt a little disjointed, but that could be Jared's need to sleep through his "power ups". The video game references and comparisons, while occasionally fun, did end up making it feel less genuine.

So, if you're a gamer looking for a foray into books or know of a gamer who's interested in trying some science fiction, this wouldn't be a bad book to start them out with. As for me, it was a nice book but I probably won't be picking up the sequel. 3 hoots!


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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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