Saturday, December 16, 2017

Pride and Prometheus | John Kessel

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

Summary:

Shelly meets Austen in this retelling of Frankenstein where Victor Frankenstein meets with Mary Bennett 13 years after the events of Pride and Prejudice and soon after his agreement to make a mate for his monster. Combining the styles of Austen and Shelly, Kessel tells the story of Mary's interactions with Frankenstein and his monster and their search to end their loneliness. 

Review:

I have to admit, between this book and Under the Pendulum Sun, I may have to start reading more gothic fantasy/sci-fi. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was a big fan of the original books as well as several of their adaptations (seriously, Pride, Prejudice & Zombies was awesome!) so I happily requested a copy of this book. I was not disappointed in any way.

I greatly appreciate Kessel's ability to combine these very different styles in such a way that they still worked with the story. The chapters focused on Mary are told from a third-person perspective while Frankenstein and the Creature's chapters are told from a first-person perspective. Additionally, Kessel retains the personalities of these characters. When I read Frankenstein I was appalled to find out what a whiny, self-absorbed personality Victor Frankenstein possessed. While reading Pride and Prometheus I again felt myself wanting to smack Frankenstein upside the head a few times. By the last few chapters my heart went out to Mary and the Creature.

Additionally, I really liked Kessel bringing in some modern takes of the times into the thought processes of the characters. Many times Mary brought up to the Creature that his bride should be well enough and know enough that she could genuinely choose him, rather than being forced into being his bride. Mary's status as a spinster in the world of 1800's England High Society brought more perspective of women's choices and treatment at the times.

This was truly an engaging, well written, well researched book and I happily give it 4.5 hoots. I will be looking for more books by Kessel as well!

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Green Unknown | Patrick Rogers

*Book provided by the author for an honest review.

Summary:

Patrick Rogers recounts his travels to the Khasi Hills in the Northeast Indian state of Meghalaya in search of living root bridges.

Review:

This book was a very fun and informative read. In the preface, Rogers says that the read may feel a little disorienting since it parallels his own adventures, but I was never lost. It was easier to follow along than he made it sound. Because the book is written from his perspective, with him including his mistakes and troubles, it actually makes learning about the area a lot more interesting and fun. It's one thing to be told about kwai and its potential side effects. It's another to read about the author going through those effects after a bad dose. Not to mention the massive storm he, Morningstar and Cena went through was made way more scary when written from his perspective.

Before reading this book, I had no idea what a living root bridge was. There is a noticeable lack of verified information on the subject.. After I learned what they are, I was hopeful that there would be a lot of myth-like stories about them to inspire the imagination. Turns out, the locals look at them the same way we do a sidewalk. Nothing too special about it. I do wish there were more pictures of them, but the author didn't find many of them as the practice is dying out.

I greatly enjoyed this excursion to a new world where the safest paths are still some of the most difficult to access. Where the struggle to get somewhere makes the destination all the more beautiful. Where almost every TV that has a satellite signal is watching WWE. I absolutely loved Rogers' depiction of the local children.

If you're interested in a non-fiction about a little-known place in India with beautiful photography and funny stories, I highly recommend this book. It's a short book, but for only $1 on Amazon, it's definitely worth taking a look. 4 hoots!

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Fallen Gods | James A. Moore

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

Summary:

In this sequel to The Last Sacrifice, we continue the stories of Brogan McTyre, the most wanted man in a dying world and his struggle to escape capture from kings, slavers and demons while trying to find a way, any way, to defeat the gods that are destroying said world. The demon, Ariah, furthers his plans for world conquest through his most obedient servant, Beron. The kings of the world seek help from a new god/demon, Theragyn. And sorcerers from other countries have arrived to help.

Review:

I remember finishing up the first book and thinking that the author did a great job of summarizing the various plot lines and setting the stage for the second book while keeping it all interesting. I was pleased to find he continued this trend with the beginning of this second book. At no time during the book did I feel like I was getting an exposition dump. That did make it a little difficult to get back into the minds of the characters, but ultimately ended up making the overall book a much better read.

Similar to the first book, this is not for the faint of heart. There are a number of torture scenes that left me feeling queasy. They don't go into vivid detail but enough that, if you're squeamish at all, you may want to pass on this series. If you can stomach these kinds of things, I think you'll enjoy the read.

Despite the unnerving aspects of the book, Moore makes sure to include some much needed humor when needed. Stanna naming her sword The Bitch always made me chuckle. Niall's awkwardness was more endearing than annoying. Brogan's discomfort at traveling with a good friend's wife, who also happens to be a witch, was some much needed levity.

There are many character perspectives per chapter, but the transition from character to character, chapter to chapter, is easily followed. At no time was I confused about which character I was reading. And there are so many characters to read about and root for. Don't get me wrong, the bad guys are still bad guys, but there are so many more and intriguing characters in this sequel. I'm so glad we actually got to meet some of the rulers of this world. I really want to more about the enigmatic Jahda. That guy alone was enough to keep me reading! But Moore writes so many other characters that make you feel for them. It's awesome!

Another aspect I love about the multi-character perspective is that it's a great way to provide background while also giving the reader plenty of action to follow. When King Parrish is unable to explain how he and his Marked Men are changed by Theragyn, the reader is not left in the dark because we were given Morne's perspective during a fight and we saw how being a Marked Man affected her.

And, again, Moore proves he knows how to end a book. I was nervous that this book would end and I'd be disappointed because I didn't have the answers I was looking for. I still don't have the answers, but at the end of Fallen Gods my mood wasn't one of frustration but rather "I am so ready for the next book!" Seriously, the next one is promising to be glorious. If the world is actually going to end, it ain't going down without a fight and I want to read that fight!

I happily give this book 4 hoots and encourage you to read this, after you've read the first one that is. This isn't a standalone sequel. But the adventure thus far has been well worth the time.

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Where the Stars Rise | Edited by Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak

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

Summary:

An anthology of sci-fi and fantasy stories written about, to borrow from the publisher's description, identity, belonging and choice.

Review:

If you've followed my blog for a while, you've heard me say that there's always one story in every anthology that I didn't like or I liked every story, but only because I skimmed through the ones I didn't like as much. This book a very rare anthology where I genuinely enjoyed every story and every story kept my full attention. I'm not gonna say I it was a completely fun ride because there were several stories that felt like a gut-punch of emotion. But such was the diverse array of story styles, settings and themes that these emotional stories were well balanced with the lighter-hearted ones. 

At no point did I want to put this book down. I actually finished the book and thought "I wish I had been able to read this in one go." It is such an amazing collection that it has introduced me to so many things I didn't know I didn't know, you know? I now need to look up books about King Sejong. I need to find recipes for idlis and onigiri. I need to know more about spider-jinn. Spider-jinn! I wanted to learn Chinese because, as beautiful as "Back to Myan" was in English, how much more beautiful is it in its original language?

This book was such a welcome change of pace and scenery for me. The authors are so very creative and engaging. Though my copy of this book was free, I will be purchasing it [Update: I have bought an E-book copy]. Where the Stars Rise has raise the bar for all future anthologies that I read. And has also greatly expanded my "Want to Read" list on Goodreads. I happily give 5 hoots and encourage you to pick up a copy!

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*Note: A portion of the book's revenue will go to support Kids Help Phone which is a Canadian counseling service for kids and teens in need. This fact does not affect my review.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Soonish | Kelly and Zach Weinersmith


Summary:

A thorough review of possible scientific innovations on the horizon, complete with the barriers in its development and possible side effects.

Review:

I picked this book up because I'm a fan of Zach Weinersmith's web comic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (SMBC). I actually pre-ordered the book because I liked his writing and non-fiction about technology is usually a big win with me. I was not disappointed!

The potential technologies brought up in Soonish were not just computer science based. They cover many areas of science including medical, world enhancements and energy. Many of the topics covered are ones I had no idea we were so close to. Programmable matter would be an incredible game changer in the world, for better and worse.

And that's something else that I really appreciated about this book. Each technology sounds like it would be an incredible boon to mankind. So the authors have made sure to include a "Concerns" section for each of these potential marvels. It is important that these exciting innovations are properly thought through and discussed. As much fun as it was thinking that Asteroid Mining could soon be a reality, what would be the actual economic effects? Being able to 3D print your own replacement heart valve or liver sounds like nothing but good news (and the authors do struggle to find a concern for this one) but how do we make it fair to those who may not be able to afford this marvel?

As much fun as the content is to read, the comics that they include are fun as well. Sometimes they're included to help drive a point home. Other times they're included to show the authors' sense of humor. For example, one comic shows Elon Musk walking on Mars and proclaiming "Finders Keepers" to talk about the legal issues of private companies driving the space program. Another comic shows one of the authors assuring Dr. Elvis they will not draw him as Elvis (though they totally do).

Overall, I'm glad I got this book. If you're looking for a science, non-fiction with a good sense of humor, you'll enjoy this. 4 hoots!

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

In the House of Five Dragons | Erica Lindquist & Aron Christensen


Summary:

Rikard was taken into Alterra, a different dimension, for 30 years to aid the Alterrans in their war. He has been returned, not aged a day, but with no idea as to how much his home has changed since he's been gone. So much so that he doesn't see how resentful his wife is at his return and what it means for the politics of the empire. Thainna is a Talon, a thief for the House of Five Dragons, trying to buy her brother a seat at the Crest of the House in the hopes that he can make everyone's life better. When she gets assigned to keep an eye on Rikard, she has no idea how to even start. But she must, if she wants to keep her brother alive.

Review:

I absolutely loved this book. It was such a delight to read! Don't get me wrong, I had predicted the big twist long before I could prove it, but I was still so drawn into this book, it's world and characters, that I almost cried while reading it. It may be a little simplistic, the good characters are good, the bad characters are bad, etc. but sometimes you really need a story like that. And the mechanics of the world this book takes place in are fascinating!

The VEIL Knights have a kind of blood magic that they can use to call upon the Alterrans to help them. The Alterrans live in a world without physical form; it's all emotions, memories and other thoughts. They literally use fear as a weapon, and a painful one at that. So when the VEIL Knights set up these deals using their blood, the Alterrans generally take emotion filled memories that they can use to fight off their enemies or create new forms. When Rikard, 30 years ago, agreed to whatever the Alterrans wanted in exchange for saving his men, he became the first Terran (physical) person to be taken into the Alterran realm. 

I love the authors' attention to the problems Rikard had coming back to the world of the physical after 30 years. He'd forgotten how to eat and drink. He'd forgotten what sleep was. He didn't know no one else could read thoughts like him. Thainna has to explain things to him like he was a child because he simply forgot, after three decades, some things that are so basic we don't even think about them anymore.

I'm not a fan of political maneuvering and whatnot, but I do like how the authors handle it. When Rikard, who has been celebrated as a self-sacrificing hero for 30 years suddenly shows up, he stirs up the muddy waters that has become the Empire. The Emperor dare not make him mad for the people love Rikard more than him. The House of Five Dragons needs to try to get him under control or risk their hold on so many political and military officials. The VEIL Knights themselves, whom he leads, need to purge themselves of their bad element and show the people of the empire they are there to protect them. 

That being said, I really don't blame Rikard's wife, Laurael, for putting their son's political status above her husband. She, herself, said that the first day she met Rikard was their wedding day and were only together two years before he disappeared. I'm actually quite understanding of her desire to kill her husband to assure her son, Gaius, his spot as the Emperor's heir. The only thing I do fault her for is having an affair with the Emperor in the first place. The rest of the "bad guy" characters, though, they had it coming.

To reiterate, I really enjoyed this book. The characters were enjoyable (I absolutely loved Stumble). The world has some very interesting mechanics that I'd love to see more of. Ultimately, this was a very good read. 4.5 hoots!

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Verax | Pratap Chatterjee, Khalil

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

Summary:

This non-fiction graphic novel follows Pratap Chatterjee's investigations into NSA surveillance and their connections to failures in the use of drones in warfare. 

Review:

Probably the best thing I can say about this book is that it is really good at explaining and making sense of everything. When the Snowden story hit there was a flood of information and I never really figured out the full effect of what was going on. This book has been incredibly helpful in getting that situation sorted out in my mind. I've also heard many reports of US Army drones killing and terrorizing innocent civilians, but never knew the full extent. This book does a masterful job of focusing the information and making it manageable. Which, sadly enough, seems to be the same problem the drone program is having, too much information, not enough focus. This book does a wonderful job of making these statistics more than just raw data to blend in to the background noise of our daily lives. There are a lot of human stories that should be getting more attention. I've made sure to adjust my news feeds so that I can pay better attention. 4 hoots.

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