Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tales of the Hidden World by Simon R. Green

Tales of the Hidden World

I have to say, I have never read any of Green's books but if they are as interesting and diverse in topic as this collection of his short stories, I will have to start going through his archive. This collection covered so many fantasy/sci-fi sub-genres that you are almost guaranteed to find at least one story in here that you will enjoy.

There are stories in here about using science to fight magic, self-sacrifice, pirates, death, witches, demons, Satan, zombies, souls, war, cannibalism, and more. It makes it difficult to write a sufficient review of the book as a whole. I will say, however, that when you are able to enjoy reading so many different types of stories, it speaks very well of the author's abilities. Regardless of whether or not you have read Green's previous books, I do recommend this one as well. This is a great way to introduce yourself to Green's style of writing. His shorts at the end of each story also help to give you a sense of how the story came about.

Of course, there is a lot of blood and fighting in this book, but it's nothing too much and fits the needs of the stories. Many of the stories can be on the scary side, but it is no more difficult to handle than Lovecraft.

Overall, I am very happy to have this book in my collection and I give it 4 hoots.


Friday, August 29, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

It has been such a long time since I've gotten to say this about a book review: OMG! THIS WAS SO AWESOME! At no time in reading this book did I get bored! Nothing seemed out of place, the book never slowed down, there was always something.

After reading a few other survival stories, I was worried that Mark, main character of The Martian, would fall into the same depression so many other survival story characters do. But Weir definitely knows how engineers think and made Mark more of a "here's a problem, let's fix it" kind of guy, with a great sense of humor! Even when he knows all of NASA and Earth believe him to be dead, he knows he has a chance at survival if he can do this, this and that. He's a great improviser with a strong will to live and keep laughing while doing it. Also the massive amounts of duct tape help.

Weir keeps the pace of this book going pretty quickly by having Mark go through several problems, some preventable, some not. With other authors or books I may have thought the constant trials and tribulations were too much, but the fact that Mark keeps coming back from them with a full set of wits, practicality and drive to survive, keeps the reader from feeling overwhelmed. How can I be overwhelmed by all that's going wrong when the guy going through everything isn't allowing himself to get overwhelmed?

When Mark does get into contact with NASA, his joking personality comes through even stronger. The dialog between Mark and NASA caused many outbursts of laughter on my part. It made the reader really empathize with Mark and want to see him survive. Especially given how much he goes through! And, because of this, The Martian is a real nail-biter, even to the end! 

I loved this book, and I cannot recommend it enough! I'm actually going to start looking for more of Weir's books to read! Though a part of me does want someone like Neil DeGrasse Tyson or Michio Kaku to read it and verify some/all of the science ^^  Overall, I have to give this book 5 Hoots!


**I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

When I first started reading The Midnight Queen I was worried I was walking into another version of Pride and Prejudice, just with magic and the old gods. I was pleasantly surprised to find, however, that while this book may have a lot of "proper behavior" and there is a love story, its central theme is something else, a story about attempting to prevent a regicide.

I really wish I could shower this book with praise, but the fact of the matter is, for me, this book was mostly "meh". There were several gems that kept me from being completely bored. Probably the biggest laugh I got out of this book was when Gray was scolded for bringing all his books along when they were running for their lives. His response, "I am a scholar, after all". And Joanna's reasoning for marriage to happen, "He is...rather an odd sort of man altogether, but as you are rather odd yourself-"*.

But as for the vast majority of the book, well, it did little to keep me focused. It was a quick read, don't get me wrong, but the story seemed to read out like a longer version of a fairytale. This may have been what Hunter was going for, in which case, bravo. However, for me, I probably would have preferred more tragedy, trials, or tribulations. Certainly not all of these, but just that little something more.

It is probably just me, because the book has all of the elements of a story that I like, but I cannot sing the praises such a book may deserve. Perhaps it was simply the structuring of the pieces didn't work for me. I do not wish to discourage anyone from reading The Midnight Queen but it is probably not a book I will readily recommend to others. I'm afraid I can only give 3 hoots.


*I laugh at this because it's similar reasoning to why Fluxxdog and I got married.
***The digital proof for this book was provided by the publisher via First to Read. This does not affect my review.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Autumn Fire by Tom Wither

Product Details

My reaction at the end of Autumn Fire is very similar to my reaction at the end of it's precursor, The Inheritor: There had better be another book in the works!

Autumn Fire picks up where the The Inheritor leaves off. The American East Coast is without power in millions of homes and offices. Aziz is still pulling all the strings and is close to completing his plans. Thompson of the NSA is having issues dealing with the self-imposed guilt from providing incorrect information that cost many lives. Agent Johnson of the FBI is being called back to Saudi Arabia to follow up on the arrest of the man they interrogated. And The Wraiths are stationed in the States to help train National Guardsmen. Then the next attacks hit!

This book hits you with problem after problem in a way that makes you empathize with the feelings of helplessness that the main characters feel. Once that is established, Wither makes sure you also feel their pride when they accomplish something, their relief when they succeed, etc. The characters in Autumn Fire are easy to relate with, even the lesser characters. At one point I was actually yelling because I was worried that one of my favorite characters was going to die.*

Like The Inheritor, Autumn Fire also gives more insight into the workings of Saudi Arabian politics and culture. Little things that we may consider innocent, asking how one's family is doing, are considered rude "Family is an intensely private matter here, spoken of only among other family members."** While other things we consider rude, such as invading a person's personal space, is seen as customary "[t]he last thing he needed now was to appear evasive or give the appearance of having something to hide by backing away..."*** Moreover, it is the establishment of respectful relationships that results in what success the main characters to achieve.

Probably my biggest concern with this book was that there seemed to be significantly more detailed violence than in the first book. This could be because there were more deaths in this book, while The Inheritor had more focus on the actual energy infrastructure, but some of the details about the effects of the specialized Wraith weaponry seemed...excessive. They definitely got the point across about Wraith weapons being more powerful than standard issue weapons. They also served the purpose of showing how dedicated the Jihad's were to continue in spite of these grievous wounds, but it was a bit much for me. The only other problem for me was that, because I received a digital proof and not a final copy, I came across several spelling errors that were distracting from the story, but I trust Turner Publications to have these corrected for the final product.

There were several times, while reading, that I had to tell my husband not to bug me because I did not want to stop reading. The ending itself left me wanting more, hence my reaction stated above. I greatly enjoyed Autumn Fire and wish it well in its upcoming release, September 9, 2014. I also encourage you to pick up your own copy, especially if you have read the first book, The Inheritor. If not, please see my earlier review. All in all, I give Autumn Fire 4 hoots and cannot wait for the next book!


*Whether (s)he did or not, I will not say. I don't deal in spoilers.
**Page 363 in the digital proof.
***Page 325 in the digital proof.
****This book was provided, in digital format, by Turner Publishing. This does not have an effect on my review.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Before Now and After Then by Peter Monn

I have a tendency to avoid coming-of-age stories and love stories. The vast majority of them, for me, have ranged from bad to meh. That being said, I really enjoyed this book!

Within the first 20-25 pages, the narrator/main character speaks of grief and loss in one of the most realistic, honest ways I have read from a contemporary author. Peter Monn has the greatly appreciated ability of describing emotions in a real way, nothing flowery or over dramatic. This theme of "real" continues throughout the entire book. No matter how strange any of the characters may seem, I know people like that. This is especially true of Danny (narrator) and his high school peers, still trying to find out who they are. Granted I didn't meet my real-life version of Cher until college, but the fact remains, these people are realistic. 

The love story that is central to this book may come off as nothing more than a whirlwind romance, nothing but the product of two teens who think they're in love, but they moved at about the same pace that me and husband did as adults. I appreciated the Monn's portrayal of love as something that isn't based on romance. Rather it is what it is and romance is just one manifestation of it.There is familial love, love for your friends, etc.

Overall, The Before Now and After Then, by Peter Monn, is a moving book that I couldn't put down. There was nothing in this book that felt out of place, fanciful, or overly emotional. It is a very real story of young man who goes through the trials and tribulations of being a homosexual teenager starting a new school after the loss of his twin brother. I happily give this book 5 hoots and recommend it to all!


***This book was provided in electronic format by the publisher, Pen Name Publishing. This does not have an effect on my review.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

When I finished the first chapter of Dark Eden I thought "I'm not going to be able to finish this. I'm already not liking it." Next thing I know I'm halfway through and decide that, regardless of how I feel about the book, I'm going to finish it. Then, when it was done, I thought "that was a waste of time."

Don't get me wrong, Beckett creates a beautiful world with extraordinary flora and fauna. I like the idea of a world where plants and animals generate their own sources of light and heat. It was an interesting mental exercise to picture every scene without sunlight. I also appreciated the fact that after so many generations of everyone being descended from the same two people, you get genetic defects (hair lips and club foot being most predominant). But it's just not enough for me.

Probably one of the biggest problems I had was with the language. I get that these people aren't from Earth but, to use their language style, I hated hated it because it was so annoying annoying. It really kept me at an intellectual and emotional distance. 

Then there was the fact that the main character, John Redlantern was as annoying to me as Holden from Catcher in the Rye. So many times he was so focused on him being right, him being the center of the story that, had he been the only narrator, I would have thrown the book out. It is to Beckett's credit that the other characters in the book recognize these personality flaws in John. Unfortunately the other characters keep following him, regardless. They know he's only happy when he's changing the status quo and the people who voice their frustration with him, or don't follow him, end up the bad guys in the story. 

I kept reading in the hopes I was wrong about the ending. In the hopes that this story was like Plato's Cave and these kids would find the light. I knew what they would actually find and I was hoping I'd be wrong. I was not. And then the book ended on that predictable note. 

I'm afraid I can only give this book 2 hoots. I did finish it, so I have to give it that much.


**"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."