Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hellboy: On Earth as it is in Hell | Brian Hodge


Summary:

When the Vatican archives are attacked by Seraphim looking to destroy a document that could cause a rift in the Church, the BPRD are called in. Hellboy, Abe and Liz seek to protect the document by taking it to BPRD headquarters, but get attacked and left for dead along the way. They soon find out that, not only are they working against demons who seek to release the document, but also an extreme sect of Christians who seek to destroy the document by, literally, any means.

Review:

I'll be honest, I'm generally the first person to praise the Hellboy novels, but this one kinda fell short for me. There were demons, ghosts, and the Leviathan, but I still found myself feeling bored for a lot of it. I'm not entirely sure why I felt bored, maybe I found the action-to-exposition ratio to be off. Maybe this just wasn't the book for me.

Hodge gets the world of BPRD right and keeps true to the heart of it. There are monsters in both human and demon form. There are pocket worlds where terrible things happen. None of it was particularly scary or mind bending for me. If it weren't for the actual inclusion of the demons and seraphim, this entire book could be an action thriller with an entirely human cast. Maybe that's what makes the book fall flat for me, the monsters and supernatural creatures feel secondary to the philosophy and human nature. And I like my monsters.

Still, if you're interested in thrillers and don't mind the supernatural aspects, you'd probably enjoy this book. As for me, I'm still gonna read Hellboy novels, but this one just doesn't work for me. 3 hoots!


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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bloggiesta 2017

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You know, it's been a while since I've actually participated in a Bloggiesta except to host Twitter Chats (I LOVE hosting Twitter Chats!). I've been working on trying to find a good pace for posting my book reviews without feeling overwhelmed. Heck, last year I read 28,000 pages but it ended up feeling more like work than fun. This year, I'm trying to slow down my reading, but since I only post once a week, I've got quite the backlog of reviews. It's making it so that, if I finish a book today, it'll be at least a month before the review goes up. And this isn't the best set up for authors and publishers, especially when I get NetGalley books.

So, my goal this Bloggiesta (other than hosting Thursday's 8 PM Twitter Chat) is to tweak my posting schedule. I'm thinking of adding a second review every two weeks. And if I don't have a review, I can use Book Tags or Recipes instead. 

What do you think? How do you handle your blogging schedule? Do you plan ahead or do you post as you finish your books? Please let me know!


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Toru: Wayfarer Returns | Stephanie R. Sorensen

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

Summary:

In an alternate history of 1850's Japan, Toru has returned from two years in the United States where he studied their military tactics, technology and economics. He risks his life by breaking Japan's isolation policy and returning to the shores of Japan so he can teach his fellow countrymen how to build and improve upon American technologies to defend themselves against the force that he knows is coming. 

Review:

This is one of those books that I could not put down. Even when I had to put it away for the sake of work or eating, it was all I could think about! I was so invested in the characters that I told my husband, "if [character name] dies, I'm going to be very mad." I was very much rooting for Toru to win over the Shogun and arm Japan. I was rooting for Masuyo to pave the way for women to be engineers and airship captains, though sometimes I was rooting for her father, Lord Aya, to win just one argument against her. I was especially rooting for Jiro every time he gave himself a promotion. 

While the book description says it's steampunk, the author, herself, agrees that it may not be "true steampunk". Technology is central to the story, but the book is more about societal and personal reactions to sudden changes in technology, as opposed to being about the technology itself. In this, I wouldn't label it as a steampunk novel, but that does not detract from the book, for me.

I greatly appreciated Sorensen's character and world building. I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of Japanese history is sorely lacking, so her attention to details about the land, the etiquette, etc. were quite helpful to me. Her characters were also so endearing on just about every level and diverse in their attributes. Even allies and best of friends have their own personalities and views. While there is drama and politics in this book, there is a healthy balance of humor as well, right up to the very end. 

This is the first book in a series and, I'll admit, I'm quite interested in seeing where this alternative history goes. I give it 5 hoots and eagerly await the next installment!

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Grace of Kings | Ken Liu


Summary:

The islands of Dara have recently come under the rule of one Emperor for the first time since the people's ancestors first landed. Unfortunately, the Emperor's rule is tyrannical and inspires several uprisings. The only successful uprisings are led by Mata Zyndu, who looks and fights like a hero of legend, and Kuni Garu, a former gangster who never had any direction in life. Unfortunately, though their campaigns are successful, there can only be one winner and friendship and the bonds of brothers-in-arms cannot survive.

Review:

This book was an enjoyable distraction from reality. It drew me in so well that, when I had to put it down for a spell, it felt like I was waking up into a different world. The characters are fully developed and feel very real and human, even the gods of Dara. I'll admit, I had some problems warming up to Kuni Garu as he reminded me of some people that I don't like, but his genuine kindness and concern over the well being of his people brought me around.

I do wish that the technology of this world was better explained. The islands of Daru boast many engineers as well as magic, though magic is usually reserved for the gods. But there was one scene where a metal detector was used and it caught me off guard. I had thought the technology was rather Renaissance Age(ish) so a metal detector really threw me off.

There is a lot of drama throughout this story, as one would expect. A few times I wanted to smack a character or two for causing or succumbing to said drama. Yet, this seems to fit with the overall theme of the book; the flawed hero. While Mata Zyndu embodies the heroes of old with his build, manner, and belief in might makes right, this sends his lands into a kind of chaos of their own. At the same time, while Kuni Garu's style keeps as many alive as possible, his character is far from perfect or honorable.

While I wish the ending was different, I respect Liu's choice to end it the way he did. Especially since it really seems like it's the only way it could end without feeling cheap. Liu sets up for a sequel quite well, though I'm not sure I'll be reading it. This book held my interest throughout, was quite endearing, and threw me a few surprises. But, I'm not really one for court level drama and politics and, from what I could determine with the ending of this first book, that's what the next book is going to be.

I happily give Grace of Kings 3.5 hoots and encourage anyone interested in fantasy, war, drama, etc. to pick up a copy.

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