Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Truth About Archie and Pye | Jonathan Pinnock

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

Summary:

In what seems like an unlikely series of coincidences, Tom has lost his job, his girlfriend, his flat and has become embroiled in a decade old murder mystery involving mathematicians and conspiracy theories. All in less than a week! When he decides to try to unravel the mystery he finds himself meeting old acquaintances, making new ones, learning mathematical concepts and trying to survive a deal with the Belarusian mafia. 


Review:

This book was so much fun to read! I'm not normally one for murder mysteries, they're just not my thing. But with a cast of likeable characters, a swirl of conspiracy theories, a lot of fun and several Gordion knot solutions, this book was a wonderful exception to the "no mysteries" rule.

Tom was immediately the kind of character you can relate to and empathize with. Even just his trying to get a quiet moment on the train and ultimately failing despite the multiple "quiet car" signs was all too familiar. You really get the sense of him as the underdog so it's very easy to cheer for him as he progresses through the story. And yes he does genuinely mess up a couple things (and maybe a few more) but the other characters are quick to call him out on it and he learns his lesson pretty quickly. 

As is the nature of conspiracy theories, they make so little sense from the outside. Pinnock does a wonderful job of making the intertwined theories more and more comprehensible as Tom delves deeper into them. It gets to the point where the even some of the most seemingly random things actually make perfect sense.

And if you're worried there's too much math involved, don't worry. Pinnock does a great job of explaining what math there is and keeping it as simple as possible. Seriously, the figuring out of Burgess' combination was equal parts educational, fun and absurd. I loved that entire scene.

If you're looking for a funny mystery novel, if you're the type of person who thought The DaVinci Code would've been good if it hadn't taken itself so seriously, this is a wonderful book for you to pick up. Pinnock's characters, circumstances and humor are definite winners. 4.5 hoots!

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Golden Ratio | Gary Meisner | Mini-Review

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

Review:

A lot of this book had me feeling like I really didn't understand math or art. Meisner does a wonderful job at the beginning of explaining what the golden ratio is, what makes it so special, and what its history is. But the application of it to the artwork was less than clear to me. A lot of times it really felt like the software he designed to find golden ratios in artwork was just finding coincidence rather than purposeful use. Some of it, like the use of a canvas sized to match the golden ratio, does apply. Others it felt pretty forced. That being said, I do give Meisner full credit for including a section on the controversy of the golden ratio and how some people argue that it doesn't exist or doesn't have as much influence as others claim, etc. Overall, it was a good beginner's book for those interested in the golden ratio. 3.5 hoots!

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

City of the Shrieking Tomb | Patrick Rogers

*Free copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Rick is a photographer who's wandered the world photographing the most beautiful mosques in the world. He's in some of the more remote parts of India trying to get to Bidar to see their mosques. Unfortunately the engine of the bus he's on literally falls out and he's stuck in the town of Humayunpur, which he's never heard of before and has little contact with the outside world. While he's there, he's warned not to go near the tomb, don't even photograph it. A demon lives there and killed the village's imam who thought himself stronger than the demon. Rick's curiosity and skepticism get the better of him and he ends up staying longer than anyone in the village thinks he should.


Review:

This book scared me. I read it late at night with mood music and definitely wasn't going to sleep any time soon. Rogers does a great job of setting up the environment and describing the world. I could visualize everything that was going on and was easily spooked as a result. The vivid nightmares, the haunting noises that woke the entire town, the blood filled stories about the tomb's history. All were really well done.

It was also one of those books that energized me because I kept wanting to reach into the book and smack some sense into the main character. He's seen the scary stuff with his own eyes! He's heard it with his own ears! And yet, he's still driven to photograph the forbidden stuff and stay in the village. He even asks "but does that mean I should leave?" YES! I get that this revolutionizes his work and interest in preserving the masques, but still.

The ending of the book, though, I found really appropriate. I'm really trying not to spoil anything here, but it was one of those "what did you expect?!" kind of endings. In some ways it was heart-breaking, I feel really bad for Rick's friend, Awaz. In other ways it was pretty predictable, if still disturbing.

Really the only thing that didn't quite fit into the book for me was Rick's encounter with Rocket Rajan. He gives a lot of needed exposition but feels so very out of place. His sudden appearance and disappearance don't help and part of me wonders if he was actually a heat induced mirage with a spirit guiding it to give Rick information.

I'll admit, I'm sensitive to the spooky stuff so this probably won't scare those who are well-versed in the horror genre. But I really did enjoy the very different setting, the mystery over gore approach, and the mythology. It was well written and certainly an entertaining read. 4 hoots!


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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Child of Virtue | Hristo Goshev | Mini-Review

*This short story is freely available online and was reviewed at the request of the author.

Review:

This story takes place as humanity is trying to survive in hiding from a superior alien race. The humans have been found and must fight off the enemy forces long enough for their ship to prep for a jump to safety. The story is told from the perspective of Shinji Amagiri as he is focusing on fixing up their wounded and trying desperately not to worry about his pregnant wife, one of their best fighters. Goshev is very good with the short story format. He gets straight to the point while still giving you the world setting. This particular story did have some stuff not for the queasy, but there wasn't much. It was really more a story of surviving, finding reason to survive and persevering. I really enjoyed this story and look forward to more from Goshev. 4.5 Hoots!

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Friday, October 19, 2018

Monster Mash | Read-A-Thon Mini Challenge


I absolutely love giant monsters and mythical creatures. Whether it's the fantastical manticore or the gigantic kaiju, there's just something about them that makes me giddy. Seriously, nothing gets me more charged up than really good monster fight. You should've seen my reaction to "Rampage"!


But the geek in me will always wonder, which creature would actually win? Manticore vs. Griffin? Kaiju vs. King Kong? Fairy vs. Nymph? Puck vs. Kitsune? It gets you thinking about the ins and outs of what these creatures are fully capable of. 



So now I pose the question to you: What creatures would you like to read about going head-to-head and how do you think it would turn out? Bonus points for introducing me to new creatures!

Whoever's answer I would most like to read in a book will win a $5 Amazon gift card. Please make sure you leave some way for me to get a hold of you!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Libriomancer | Jim C. Hines


Summary:

Isaac used to be a field agent for the Libriomancers, magicians who can access magic to pull items (or creatures) out of books and make them real. After a mission gone very, very wrong, he's been relegated to a cataloger, a Libriomancer not allowed to use magic and is charged with identifying books with potentially catastrophic items to be added to the "locked up" list. Then he gets attacked by three vampires claiming the Libriomancers have started a war with their kind. He only survives with the helpful, if unexpected, arrival of Lena, a dryad who was created when someone accidentally pulled a magic acorn out of a book. Together they begin the search for the cause of all of this while trying to stay alive against monsters, known and unknown. 


Review:

This book really helped me snap out of a long-running reading slump. It had a wonderful blend of humor, action and magic. Isaac talking about how he discovered Libriomancy because of the magic he felt when he read books really helped to remind me of why I love reading. This book really captures the joy one gets when they're caught up in a book and it really helped me to get caught up in it. The fact that so much of it takes place in Michigan and I'm a native Michigander didn't hurt, either. Nor the fact that Isaac is a huge Sci-Fi/Fantasy geek. 

I've always loved books where the main character is a librarian and Libriomancer is no exception. When he put his librarian skills to use to find a name no one else could, I was cheering. 

I couldn't count the number of times I had helped patrons track down ancestors on genealogy sites or locate long-lost classmates, and I had found books with far less information than a character's name. I was a pretty good libriomancer, but I was a damn good librarian.

Hines does a wonderful job of making even the most fantastical characters feel real. Smudge, Isaac's fire-spider companion, was full of life and his own forms of fun. He couldn't talk, but he could clearly let you know when he was not happy. I'm not sure how many soot stains Isaac has on his clothes, but I'm guessing he has a lot of extras. And, I'm not gonna lie, I've never been comfortable with the combination of spiders and fire since the movie Arachnophobia, but Smudge was one of my favorite characters in this. Though I'll never know why he enjoys watching SpongeBob so much.

Add this to the fact that Hines balances the action, drama and scary parts with a strong, yet not overwhelming sense of humor, and you've got a winner. I'll never forget laughing out loud at a very dramatic moment when Isaac gets hurt and he thinks:

There was less pain than I would've expected but —
Oh, wait, there was the pain.
This book was quite the treasure and I do plan on reading the rest of the series. I had a fun adventure full of thrills, twists, and scares but also laughs, adorableness and rampant geekery. This book helped me remember the magic of reading and I am so grateful. I happily give 4.5 hoots and encourage you to pick up a copy!

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Saturday, September 1, 2018

I Can't Believe It's Not Buddha! | Bodhipaksa | Mini-Review

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

Review:

This book is a collection of 50 quotes commonly attributed to Buddha that aren't actually his. Bodhipaksa takes a look at the quotes and discusses their actual origins as well as whether or not they're things Buddha would've said or if they're in direct opposition to his teachings. I also appreciate Bodhipaksa's explanations for how and why quotes get misattributed throughout the years. And the book keeps its promise on teaching Buddhism by revealing fake quotes. I am more knowledgeable about the subject now than I was before I started reading. This is a short book, but I found it fun, educational, and encouraging of double checking quotes before we share them online. I do recommend this book and happily give 4 hoots!

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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Hidden Sun | Jaine Fenn

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

Summary:

Rhia Harlyn is Shen noblewoman and a secret scientist in the hidden network of Shadowland Naturalists. She has to keep her scientific activities secret or face the wrath of the church. When she discovers a mission to rescue her wayward brother from Zekt she forces her way into the group to go with them, putting her life at serious risk. At the same time, Dej, a Skykin child, not yet given her transformation, is living in the creche with others like her. Well, they're not exactly like her. They were given parting gifts from their parents while Dej, and her best friend Min, were not. This makes them the subjects of quite a bit of ridicule which Dej uses as an excuse to be a sneak thief. When Dej is finally called to go to her transformation an even more difficult life begins for her as she finds out the consequences of not having a parting gift.

Review:

This book was an intriguing introduction to an interesting world. It is well written and has some interesting characters and plot developments. The travel from Shen to Zekt provided some insight into the differences between the Shadowlands and the Skylands, the Skylands are on plateaus and are dangerously bright and hot for Shadowkin. And these plateaus and flatlands are in a honeycomb kind of pattern. You never get two Shadowlands or Skylands next to each other.

In order to survive the Skylands, Skykin children must undergo a bonding ceremony and be bonded with what is called an animus. This changes their physical and psychological nature. It gives them a magical talent (i.e. pathfinding) and gives them the kind of scaly skin, muscles and reflexes needed to survive the creatures of the Skylands. And if you have a damaged animus, you have to join the clanless, the lowest caste in the Skylands. The clanless tend to live down to that reputation.

This book wasn't really easy for me to get into. I had problems visualizing the world.  I get it, but it was still difficult for me to visualize. I guess I was at odds with myself while reading because Rhia mentioned seeing a building built by the ancients and all I could think of was that this was a post-apocalyptic Earth or space colony and I was waiting for the big reveal. I accidentally made it more difficult on myself to get into the world.

That being said, I still liked the book. It's got an interesting blend of characters and three different, interesting, intersecting story lines. I really felt for Dej. I was encouraged by Rhia's scientific curiosity. I was intrigued by Sadakh's role in everything. I know there is more going on than meets the eye and it's well worth a read. 3.5 hoots!

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Healing Power of Mindfulness | Jon Kabat-Zinn | Mini-Review

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


Review:

I picked up this book because I've recently been trying out mindfulness meditation to help with my anxiety and depression issues. It's been kinda working so I decided to read this book to see if I couldn't get more structure in my meditations and get some guidance. While there is some of that in here, the majority of the book is Kabat-Zinn's history with mindfulness in a professional medical setting. From helping patients undergoing treatment for psoriasis to working with psychologists to incorporate the meditation in their treatments. It was still a highly informative book and had several chapters on what I was looking for. The biggest flaw, however, is the number of paragraph long sentences. Several times I would read a sentence that went on for way too long only to have to re-read it because I couldn't figure out what Kabat-Zinn was trying to say. Maybe it would make sense in an audiobook, but reading it left my brain feeling frustrated. I never did figure out one or two of them, and I had context from the book. Overall, the book is okay and definitely informative. Kabat-Zinn just needs to tone down some of the wording. 3.5 hoots!

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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Daughters of Forgotten Light | Sean Grigsby

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

Summary:

The city of Oubliette, floating in space, had originally been meant to be used by the rich to escape the climate change. Once resources were diverted for the war, it became a women's prison city. The territory is divided into three gangs and there is a thin agreement to truce. Between a baby showing up in the one of the shipments to the city and the government wanting another option if they lose the war, things are about to get even more interesting, and bloody, in Oubliette. 

Review

Long story short, this is a book that shows multiple ways of being a bad ass woman. Each character perspective we get, Senator Linda Dolfuse, Lena "Horror" Horowitz, Sarah Pao, each of them is a bad ass in their own right. Admittedly Dofluse and Pao kinda need some time to grow into it, but when they get there, you're rooting for them. Lena is introduced as the leader of the gang Daughters of Forgotten Light, maintaining her cool when confronted by the other gangs, the Amazons and the Onyx Coalition. She's got your attention right from the start.

I'll admit, I thought the whole baby-triggering-maternal-instincts would be a worn out stereotype at play, but it really only ended up being a couple of characters triggered. Heck, for some of the women, the baby was just something new to break the monotony. The book does focus on women characters because there's an international war going on and all men, or boys sold by their parents, are shipped off to the military. That means women make up the remaining roles, government, business and other. 

Oh yeah, in this world, parents legally own their children. At the age of 11 they can have their children shipped off to join the military or to Oubliette. Some parents are forced to do this to pay their debts. Others do this because they can't handle the kid. One of the first cases we see of this is in the latest shipment of girls to Oubliette. A little girl who showed symptoms of autism. It was guessed she was shipped out because her parents couldn't handle raising her. Other times it's simply if the child does something the parents disagree with. Spangler knew his parents would've sent him to the military if they found out he was gay.

I have no problems saying that the world this took place in was incredibly interesting. Not just the dystopian stuff. In Oubliette, everything is made from glass. Their motorbikes (which run silent) are completely glass. Even their leather is made from glass! It's something different that I absolutely loved. Then there were the weapons that the gangs had, called rangs (short for boomerangs because the ammunition comes back to you). It was definitely something different.

I will warn you, this is not a book for the faint of stomach. It's not grossly detailed, but there is a lot of fighting, blood and cannibalism. Don't worry, only one gang consists of cannibals and the book does actually cover some of the health problems associated with that diet. But, yeah, be prepared for blood, foul language and violence.

In case you can't tell from how long this review is, I really did enjoy this book. And the ending is quite what I wanted, but I was very happy with it. 4.5 hoots!

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Only Dead on the Inside | James Breakwell


Summary:

A collection of survival tips as well as do's and don'ts for being a parent in the zombie apocalypse. 

Review:

I laughed so friggin' hard at this book I'm sure I got looks while I was reading it on the bus. But I didn't notice because I was laughing too hard. I've already bought a copy of this for my Mom! Yes, some of the jokes rely on sitcom family stereotypes (the "inept dad" stereotype being the predominant one). And yes, I don't have any kids myself. However, the humor of there is so much humor based in truth. Anyone who's spent any time with any kids knows the truth of the dangers of a temper tantrum!

My favorite part about this book is how it covers so many things that other zombie lore glosses over. The idea that disposable diapers will be a new form of currency rings very true. Plus, how many other zombie stories talk about how children are just inherently good at finding dangerous things? "It takes skill to make an inert wooden crib spontaneously burst into flames, but if anyone can do it, it's a six-month-old." That's why there are so many warning labels on toys. That's why being a parent in the zombie apocalypse is so dangerous for all parties!

But the book doesn't spend the whole time complaining. There's actually some good advice in here. Like how most guidebooks would tell you to remove a staircase and use a retractable ladder to keep the second floor zombie free. Breakwell reminds you that carrying a baby, plus loot, means you're not climbing up that ladder. He also talks about how escaping from zombies, with your family intact, is more about situational awareness than actual speed. Then there's the chapter on punishments where he talks about punishment only being effective if the kid understands why they're in trouble.

Some of the best parts of this book are about using your children to your advantage. Using their natural talent to create messes to make your house an obstacle course for zombie or looter. Using their smaller size to help you loot more places (not to mention their enthusiasm at getting to take home whatever they want). They also come with some very useful accessories, like strollers and toys that can be used as weapons. Like a mini-van that can still play DVDs even after the house has lost power. 

I absolutely loved this book. I shared some lines with my Mom and she wanted a copy. There are cartoons, charts and other visuals and the book is short so it's easy to stay engaged the entire time. I happily give 5 hoots!


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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Killer Librarian | Mary Lou Kirwin


Summary:

Karen Nash is packed and ready to go to England with her boyfriend, Dave, when he calls her up and dumps her. Literally hours before she's supposed to finally visit England, he says it's over. She decides she'll pay the extra expense of a last minute ticket and goes anyways. She's been looking forward to this trip and has been planning it for a long time. What she didn't plan for was waking up from a hangover at the B&B and finding a dead man holding an upside down book. What she also didn't plan was finding Dave in England with his new, much younger, girlfriend. She also didn't plan on having feelings for the owner of the B&B who has a motive for murder.

Review:

This was such a delightful book. I'll admit, if you're a mystery fan, you'll probably be disappointed. This is so much more slice-of-life than it is murder mystery and that's probably why I enjoyed it so much! 

That and the main character, Karen, is a middle-aged librarian who's lived in the American Mid-West for many years. How could I not relate to that demographic? I adored Karen and her determination to move on and have fun. She and I don't share tastes in literature, but that "thrill of the hunt" she gets when visiting Hay-on-Wye and its many, many stores is something I understand. Her feeling stunned when she sees herself in a shawl for the first time? I felt similar the first time I realized I look good in cardigans (and that they're comfortable). I hope that I can be son independent when I'm her age.

The vast majority of the story is her wandering London. She only thinks about the death here and there. As a result, we get to experience more of the city from her than if she were hard-set on solving the mystery. I rather appreciate that. I also learned, from her mistakes, that an English pint is way more than an American pint. Something I'll have to remember should I ever get to visit. 

The other characters are only so-so in terms of depth and entertainment. Caldwell, the owner of the Bed & Breakfast was well thought out, but he was also the main love interest so that was kind of needed. I did love her depictions of him while he was at work in the kitchen. And the kindling romance between two book worms is so much fun to read.

If you're looking for a slice-of-life about a woman who's determined not to let being dumped stop her, I do recommend this book. It's probably not one for the die-hard mystery fans, but it's a lot of fun for others. 4 hoots!

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Fool if You Think It's Over | Jo Thomas



Summary:

Elkie seems to have everything she's been wanting. She got Ben out of the Institute and Dave locked in. She got the girls to a safe place with their father. She's even been getting along better with her mother. Unfortunately, other people's plans for her keep getting in the way. Roar, the head of the Valemon company, believes her to be sent from Odin to answer his prayers. Ben and the Greywolves believe her to be an obstacle to their happiness. David believes her to be a traitor to her species and their friendship. Yeah, she's gonna have a rough time.

Review:

I'm not gonna lie, this book gave me a serious emotional hangover. I couldn't pick up another book for a long time because of how this one ended. And I mean that in a good way.

When we got introduced to Roar and his beliefs about the magic provided by faith in the old Norse gods, I was worried that this world was going to go over the top with the fantastical elements. Fortunately, this does not happen. Yes, we get a lot more magic, but it is world developing instead of world changing, if that makes sense. Because we only get Elkie's perspective, and she is more of a skeptic, we get a more controlled inclusion of these elements.

What surprised me was Elkie's strong return to violence. Yes, self-defense was the primary reason, but with the new elements of the world it ended up taking a bit more of a sinister turn. Fortunately Elkie is still the kind of person who doesn't forget she is human and she is affected by this as much as I was, if not more. She's not a mindless killing machine. She's a human who's reaching her breaking point. It ended up making me feel even more sorry for her.

While this wasn't as humorous as the previous books, I still found it to be a fitting end to the trilogy. The kind of ending that makes you realize just how much you enjoyed having a character in your life and how much you wanted to keep reading about them. This trilogy as a whole was a wonderful adventure and a testament to one's ability to find contentment with their lot and the strength to keep moving. I am so glad to have read this trilogy and this book helped me realize that even more. 5 hoots.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Genius Jokes | Frank Flannery | Mini-Review

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

Review:

Good news! I'm evidence that you don't actually have to be a genius to enjoy these jokes. Some of them were a bit on the dryer side of funny. Others literally made me laugh out loud. The topics cover science, history, politics, and more. My favorite part, I actually learned things! The explanations of the jokes in this book are well written and concise. They are clearly meant to educate without being boring and they succeed. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for anyone who wants some fun filled, quick learning. 4 hoots!

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

A Pack of Lies | Jo Thomas


Summary:
Elkie Bernstein is having werewolf problems of a different kind. The kind that involves long-term strategy and paperwork, neither of which she's very good at. She needs to get Ben (and maybe David) out of the Institute and away from Olsen who seeks to use Ben to find more werewolves. She needs to keep her farm going after her partnership with the Williams' family dissolves. Most importantly, she needs to protect a couple of young were-pups from the hands of those that would use them.

Review:

This book does pretty much everything that I want a sequel to do: it expands upon the world of the original in a way that makes sense. In the first book we were pretty much as "stuck" as Elkie in the middle of nowhere in Wales and we didn't get any sense of werewolves being known in the world. In this book, not only do we get to see a sliver of Norway, but we also get to see a werewolf pack. Well, we get to see that such things exist. In all honesty, I'm glad we still get to focus on Elkie and her struggles as opposed to side trips to the perspectives of others. 

Elkie remains one of my favorite female protagonists. She is very down-to-earth, self-aware, and kind hearted. I love that she openly admits to being a bad chess player and how that translates to her real life (I often have very similar frustrations). I love the fact that, even with everything stacked against her, she focuses on finding ways to make it work. She gets anxiety and I think some depression, but she keeps moving. I love that in a main character. She reads like a very well rounded character who is making the most of what she's been given in life and is finding contentment in it. Well, she would be if others would give her the chance to actually be content, but that's the cost of being a protagonist. 

While the book doesn't have more characters than the last one, the characters that are in this one last a lot longer so it feels like there are more, in a good way. Thomas does a wonderful job of keeping them well balanced. I'll admit, May's character wasn't as well played out as the others, but maybe that's the idea and she'll play a bigger role in the third book (which I'll be looking to get my hands on). I also liked that, while there are little kid characters, it rarely, if ever, reads like the little kid tropes. They're were-puppies who have distinct personalities and are learning to love books. What's not to love?

As the summary suggests, there wasn't nearly as much action in this book as there was in the first. There are still some werewolf fights, but the vast majority of the book is more strategy and positioning than actual fighting. Which makes sense. Elkie doesn't enjoy killing werewolves and only ever does out of self-defense. In this book there are few situations where she finds herself in need of defense. I can't say that there's more drama than I usually like because, well, Elike's personality and Thomas' sense of humor really keep it from feeling that way. That's quite the feat considering we get a lot of Elkie and her mom talking about Elkie's long lost dad and family issues. 

In case you can't tell, I enjoyed this book. Elkie is a wonderful, relatable character whose independence (stubbornness) and enjoyment of the simple things in life (hazelnut spread) make for an engaging read. In fact, I've already purchased the third book. This world, these characters, are very interesting to me and I'm loving finding out more about them all. 4.5 hoots!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Atomic Aardvark | Ryan Guy | Mini-Review


Review:

Sometimes you want a book that will take you through the full gamut of emotions. Other times you want a story about animals given hyper intelligence and abilities from the residue of a chemical company, the strike of a meteor and a flash of lightning, under the light of a full moon. Holy wah does this book deliver on that! I had so much fun reading this book that I was on the edge of my seat in the last few chapters and I am really hoping for a sequel someday. Aardy the Aardvark and Surly Skunk getting their understanding of humans from such different angles was delightful. The fact that Surly adopted his understanding of language from the classics made him all the more fun to read, and he truly made for a wonderful "villain". Marissa and Conley were actually pretty enjoyable to read despite being humans. They actually did a really good job of keeping the story going and glued together. If you're in the market for a relatively quick and definitely silly yet interesting read, I highly recommend Atomic Aardvark. I really hope we get a sequel! 5 hoots!

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Villains Rule | M. K. Gibson


Summary:

Jackson Blackwell has worked long and hard to become famed Shadow Master, villain of villains. He is the most villainous of all not because he is cruel and crushes peasants under his boot. Rather he travels through dimensions, profiting off of other villains. He's made quite the name and career for himself. So when he is betrayed and left with minimal power in a fantasy realm, it catches him a bit off guard. Now he must (shudder) gather the heroes of the realm and get his power back.

Review:

I had so much fun reading this book. I cannot tell you the number of times I almost laughed out loud. More than that, though, because Jackson is a top tier villain, he is incredibly intelligent and intriguing to read of. We are fortunate to get to read the book from his perspective and, I have to say, he makes for a great narrator. Especially in his more human moments. That being said, he is still a villain who knows the angles to play for the most profit for himself. Several of his actions I wouldn't have agreed with, but he has no scruples about using them himself. After all, a true great villain knows how to abuse the rules to their fullest extent.

Another benefit of reading all of this from Jackson's perspective is, when he never sees something coming, neither do we. This book genuinely kept me surprised and intrigued. Because Jackson is such an intelligent character he picked up on a lot of stuff other characters wouldn't. This led me to not question his assumptions the more I read. So when he was caught off guard it was genuine and exciting. 

The rest of the cast of characters is delightfully well rounded. Jackson finds heroes who have their own "sins" from their pasts. Except for Carina. Her only "crime" was being a female half-breed in a group of elite, and elitist, male warriors. Everyone else Jackson is able to discern some sin or bad deed. He actually spoke out against the entire Elven race as the xenophobic, technophobic, stifling creatures they are. Then again, there are characters like Lydia that don't bother to hide who they are. I never would've thought she'd be into using knives for bondage play.

Also, fair warning for any fantasy fans who read this, be prepared to have the genre made fun of. A lot. Several of Jackson's comments revolve around the wish for air condition or even basic indoor plumbing. 

Really my only complaint about this book is the number of grammatical errors. I counted seven, though I know that doesn't cover all of them. And this may not seem like a lot, but when you read something like "I felt bone piece my heart" it's gonna throw you out of the book a bit.

That being said, I still loved this book. I'm actually planning on listening to the audio sample and, if I like it, buying that to listen to at work. I rarely buy audio-books, so that should tell you something about how much I enjoyed this story. I happily give 4.5 hoots and encourage you to pick up a copy!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Catching Stardust | Natalie Starkey | Mini-Review

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

Review:

Starkey takes us on a complete tour of all things comet and asteroid. From their chemical makeup and physical appearance to their probable roles in our past and future. There are chapters dedicated to the mining of asteroids, protecting Earth from asteroids, and missions from space stations around the world landing on comets and collecting their dust for study. I now know so much more about comets and asteroids than I did. I even got a bit of a chemistry and geology refresher. It was definitely written at a level for casual readers and I greatly appreciate that. This is definitely a good book for any amateur astronomer or anyone wondering why comets and asteroids are so important. 3.5 hoots!

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Apocalypse Nyx | Kameron Hurley

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

Summary:

Nyx, the main character, is a former belle-dame, elite of the elites in war. After she got kicked out she turned to mercenary work, alcohol and sex. Her team learns quickly that she will sacrifice any and all of them to get the job done. Naturally, this doesn't lead to a happy life. Then again, in a world ravaged by war where all men and women are required at the front, only the super rich First Families can expect a happy life.

Review:

I had no idea, going into this book, that I was going to be reading a collection of short stories from an already established series. That being said, you don't need to have read the other books to enjoy this one.  

This is an incredibly interesting world. Because all native men are required to be on the front for several years while the women are only required there for two years, it makes sense that the majority of the characters are strong women. When there are men, more often than not they're foreigners not required to sign up for the draft. There is bug-based magic and technology which, honestly, makes sense given how many bugs there seem to be. And the logic of the world feels very consistent. 

Nyx is an incredibly kick-ass character, better at shooting than talking her way out, which is one of my favorite kind of protagonists. It's not that she has a heart of ice, rather she has a very calloused heart after all that she's had to see and endure. Her sniper, Anneke, is more of a wild kind of crazy, complete with a drug problem. Her magician, Rhys, is a Chenjan man who only puts up with Nyx because Chenjans don't have many options, but he maintains his religious devotions. Her tech, Taite, is a scrawny Ras Tiegan teenager. Her shifter, Khos, is a rather large Mhorian who is just about desperate for work. Together, they make for an entertaining team to read about.

Fair warning, this ain't a book for the faint of heart. It's a world where there is constant war, frequent sirens warning of bombardments, and bodies regrowing limbs just to be sent back to the front. And the way those limbs are regrown are somewhat stomach upsetting. This book has plenty of fun moments, but it is has a lot of darker ones. That last chapter ended on a heart-wrenching note. 

That being said, I'm still gonna look into the other books of the series. 4 hoots!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Iron Hearted Violet | Kelly Barnhill | Mini-Review


Summary:

Princes Violet is an only child, and not a pretty one at that. Rather she is incredibly intelligent and strong-willed and, as a result, well loved by her family and her people. Unfortunately there is an evil in the castle that plans on using her to get free by using the stories she loves so much against her. When her father leaves her and her mother behind to capture the last known dragon, everything goes downhill quickly and Princess Violet listens to the darkness' advice.

Review:

This is a middle-grade book that I picked up from a used-book store. It's definitely a book that I wish I'd had when I was younger. It's got plenty of tropes in it, yes, but I still found it quite enjoyable. I loved the fact that the evil talked to people through mirrors and played on their vanity and insecurities. I enjoyed the fact that the gods themselves admitted that they weren't perfect. Most importantly, though, I loved the fact that when Violet gets turned into what she considers the physical embodiment of "a true princess" she realizes how physically impossible it is to do anything! Floor length hair is incredibly heavy. Tiny feet make it difficult to balance. Dainty figures get tired out easily. The book continuously affirms that a true princess doesn't have to be beautiful of figure, but beautiful of heart and I commend it for that. Like I said, I wish I'd had this when I was a kid. 4 hoots!

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Old Man's War | Jon Scalzi


Summary:

John Perry is 75 years old, a widower with only an okay relationship with his only son, when he decides to join the Colonial Defense Force and fight to protect Earth's colonies from alien races. CDF is only interested in people his age, people with decades of experience in life. By the time he gets to boot camp, his entire world view has changed. Now he fights every day to save his life and the lives of his squad mates.

Review:

This book definitely wasn't what I expected. I was told I'd have a lot of laughs, and I did, but I didn't think I'd have so many other powerful emotions. This book didn't just make me laugh, it scared me, it mad me sad, it made me think, it made me wonder. This book was an experience that I was glad to have.

Because our main character is 75 when the book starts, we don't have to put up with a painfully naive, idiotic character. Don't get me wrong, he is naive when it comes to the alien menace he's going to go up against, but he's not naive enough to think of himself as invulnerable, unlike some of the other new soldiers. I did love the fact that all the new soldiers went completely nuts when they got their new bodies, but only one person was dumb enough to think they could fly. That's the kind of common sense that I like in my characters.

As well as Perry's sense of common decency. There were some diplomatic missions where he could've gone against orders and made a scene, but he knew it wouldn't be in everyone's best interests to do so. As much fun as it is to read characters who speak their minds, it's so much better when they have the wisdom to know when to keep their mouths shut. He didn't do so well with his first conscious encounter with the Ghost Brigades, but that was actually story essential.

And Perry isn't the only good character to read, either. Every member of Perry's initial group were so ingratiating that, at the reports of some of their deaths, I was genuinely saddened. It makes sense that not everyone would make it through, this is an interstellar war. But they were written so well and with so much gravitas that each loss was really felt. I was invested in the well-being of almost every character (the former politician, not so much).

Some of the scenes were kinda gruesome, but this is war. Fortunately there were only one or two scenes that went into full, gross detail. Those were usually scenes meant to instill fear in the new cadets or to let the reader know the extent of Perry's injuries. But it's these scenes that make the lighter moments all the lighter, more jovial moments more important and impactful. 

I can definitely see why this book has gotten so many accolades. They are truly well deserved and I will be picking up the next book. 4.5 hoots!

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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Discovery of the Saiph | P. P. Corcoran


Summary:

In the near future humans develop the technology to "fold" space in such a way that they can travel multiple light years in mere seconds. In exploring their first new solar system, humans discover several buildings that house ancient lexicons, full of information. These were left behind by a race identified as The Saiph. Using this information humans begin reshaping their technology, discovering new solar systems and finding potential allies and definite enemies.

Review:

I picked this book up because I love military sci-fi and Corcoran incorporates his own experience in the military with his books. 

That being said, I had to take a break from this book about half way through. I realized I wasn't enjoying it when they were having their first battle against the Others (enemy alien race) and I was bored. I took a long break from reading it, came back to it and then finished it. For me it didn't really pick up until the alliances with other species came into play. When it was just humans versus others, I didn't really care. It wasn't until we teamed up with other friendly races that I actually started caring. 

Part of the problem, for me, is the lack of character depth. I'm not saying the characters were one dimensional, I'm saying that we don't get to know the characters well enough to really care about them. A lot of times it felt like just saying someone's name and occupation was supposed to be enough to make me care about them. Other times it felt like there were so many names, ranks and occupations that it was hard to keep characters straight. 

Once the other races came into play, though, I was fully engaged. I'm not fully sure I know why other than that it felt like it was no longer just "us versus them". It finally felt like there were actually other worlds to learn about, other cultures to learn from, and more. 

I really appreciated Corcoran's sense of humor that came into play at good moments. I loved the contrasting ideas about "appropriate greetings" between the cultures. I really liked that economics and population were factors. There were plenty of technical aspects of expansion, exploration and war that were addressed that made it feel more real. My only problem is a lack of connection to the characters.

Overall, I can really only give this book a 2.5. I had to make myself finish it and it didn't pick up until late. I doubt I'll pick up any more books in this series.

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