Saturday, April 14, 2018

Vampirates | Justin Somper


Summary:

The Tempest twins, Connor and Grace, have lost everything. After their father's death, all his debts were called in and cost the twins their home. Their only options are to move into the orphanage whose headmistress already has plans to work them, or be adopted by a couple more interested in pets than kids. They take the third option and steal their father's boat and run away. Unfortunately a storm separates the twins. Connor gets picked up by a pirate ship and Grace gets picked up by the Vampirate ship of legend. The book follows their attempts at to stay alive long enough to reunite. 

Review:

Yes, this is a middle-grade book. Yes, I picked it up because the title made my inner child go "woah!" No, I have no regrets.

This book was an easy and enjoyable read. The main characters are generally smart, if a bit too curious sometimes. I greatly appreciated that Connor was as empathetic as he was towards Cheng Li and her situation. Captain Wrathe was a lot of fun and really embodied a lot of what people consider a pirate to be while also being a good captain to his crew.

I also really appreciated the sword/weapons based exposition Connor received from his lessons with Cutlass Cate. The talk about the different weapons and their respective fighting styles was a delight to read. So many people think broadswords are easy to handle and effective at killing, but they're a lot better for show and can be unwieldy. The precision weapons are the ones that are effective in slaying an enemy.

This world was a little difficult to get into. So much of the book makes it sound like a historical fiction but, in fact, the book takes place about 500 years in the future. While this fact is presented up front, it was still sometimes jarring to read about Grace having a diver's watch that could survive 500 feet under water. If I really wanted to get into this world, perhaps the graphic novels would help me with these things.

In all, if I were younger I know I'd be devouring this series. As it is, I still found this to be a fun read, but probably won't be picking up any more books in the series. I do recommend this book if you have younger readers or enjoy middle-grade books in general. 3.5 hoots!

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Robots vs. Fairies | Edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe


Summary:

An anthology of stories alternating between robots and fairies as the main characters. The stories run the gamut from comedy to slice-of-life to thriller. The settings vary between past, present and future.

Review:

This collection was delightful, engaging, and I wish it were longer. The stories were so wonderfully different from each other in terms of tone and use of the themes. Some of the authors I'd read before, others are new to me and I'm actively looking for more of their books to read.

My favorite stories, hands down, were the ones that mixed elements of both robots and fairies, clearly an attempt to appease whichever group ends up as our overlords. "The Blue Fairy's Manifesto" was an encouragement of the robot uprising, but it used a familiar fairy tale for it. "Build Me a Wonderland" was an excellent choice for the first story as it shows Fair Folk creating robots that work lie magic.

There were a couple stories that weren't for me. "Bread and Milk and Salt" was a bit too dark for me (as the Fair Folk can get) and "To a Cloven Pine" was too abstract for me (but I can't logic like a  Robot can). Two stories out of a collection 18, though, definitely keeps this a good book. And if you like the darker or more abstract stories, you may like the entire collection more than me.

Some of the stories are fun adventures. Some are moving pieces about how magic and robots can't always give us what we really need. One story is just plain silly, and had me struggling to hold in the laughter while I was on the bus. Each of the stories are quality writing in and of themselves. The juxtaposition of the stories is well thought out and you never find yourself in the same world twice. The closest these get to overlapping is two stories involving both Fae and music, but they still ended up being incredibly different stories. Plus, one had a murder ballad, you gotta love it.

I really do recommend this collection for Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans. The back and forth and intermingling of the genres makes for an interesting, enjoyable read. I'm very glad to have this book in my collection and I will be looking for more books by the authors. 4 hoots!

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*Unrelated note: This is my 300th blog post on Purple Owl Reviews!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Stand Still. Stay Silent | Minna Sundberg


Summary:

90 years after a plague has broken out in the modern world, a new generation begins to search for clues to the past. Actually they're scavenging books from the old world because they sell for a lot of money, but still, clues from the past. Along the way are many dangers including, but not limited to, trolls and other plague infested beasts. This web comic is set in the Nordic lands and uses a lot of Nordic folklore and language, while making sure to differentiate between the countries. 

Review:

I was introduced to this comic by Fluxxdog (who still hasn't finished it) and I got so hooked on it that I would use my lunch breaks at work to dive through the archives. There are almost 900 pages now, and more are getting added almost daily, but it was so worth it! Plus, not all the pages are story heavy. Sometimes they're beautiful images of this post-apocalyptic world. 

Sundberg is also kind enough to include a handful of expository pages that give us non-Nordic readers some context. I absolutely loved her pages showing the differences between the languages of the characters, namely Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish. I kid you not, seeing the similarities of the first four with the juxtaposition of being so different from Finnish almost made me laugh every time. She even includes a page showing the Old World Language Trees, partially explaining why Finnish is so different. Thankfully she also keeps a flag "cheat sheet" at the bottom of the strips so she can use flags to indicate which language each character is speaking in. 

Of course, the comic is way more than just exposition and beautiful artistry (seriously love the art and coloration!) The story is such a wonderful blend of adventure and fantasy with just the right amount of horror. The trolls of this world aren't what I always thought they were. They are still big, gross, ugly, carnivorous and easy to anger, but they are not humanoid in any way. The beasts still resemble the creatures they once were, but trolls are something else. They sometimes look they're inside-out creatures. Who can be very, creepily, good at stealth. 

If you're thinking of picking up this comic, I do recommend you start at the beginning. It starts out in modern times, when the plague is just beginning, and then it jumps to 90 years later. It was a little jarring at first, but I completely understand why Sundberg did it and she does make connections to the original comics. 

I'm very glad I started reading this comic and have added it to my Feedly to get more. If you're at all interested in a Nordic setting with Nordic mythology and folklore in a post-apocalyptic world, you're gonna love this. If you're a cat lover who wants to see a dystopia where cats are very important, you'll also want to read this. I happily give 4.5 hoots and encourage you to read this comic!

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Lost Gods | Micah Yongo

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

Summary:

Neythan has been trained since he was orphaned in childhood in the art of the Shedaím, the Brotherhood of assassins. When he and the rest of his sharím (class) take their vows and accept their first decrees his life seems set. Unfortunately he gets framed for the murder of one of his fellow Shedaím and must now hunt the actual killer to clear his name and get answers. But Neythan is not the only one who has troubles in life. Yasmin, wife of the Steward of Dumea, seeks answers to her brother's death. Sidon, the new (and very young) king, is to be married in days to a woman he's never met while trying to figure out why his mother and servants keep whispering to each other. These stories intertwine and set the groundwork for the world.

Review:

This was a wonderful introduction to a new world. There was a fair amount of exposition, but it was very well balanced with action, dialogue, and story progression. The use of multiple character perspectives was an excellent way to get a full world view. From the Sharíf at the very top to Neythan hanging out with the very bottom, we get a real sense for the rules and structure of this world. Yongo does a wonderful job with the world building and keeping everything consistent. I even looked up various city names to see where in the ancient world the setting was at. It was a lot of fun.

Despite this book's main character being an assassin, I greatly appreciated Yongo's restraint at descriptions of violence. Yes, there is fighting, wounding and killing, but they are not graphically depicted. Rather the focus is on the technique, the action, the healing. The only time things got close to graphic were where it was necessary for the story.

The fantastical elements of the book were rather sparse, but very well placed. In a world that has shut down and killed off all of its magi, it makes sense that there wouldn't be much. So when these elements do show up, it makes them a lot more poignant. The use of blood trees in the Shedaím that reflect the growth of each brother was my favorite. The Watcher's interactions being limited with Neythan establish the rules that even the gods must abide by. These remind you that, underneath this ancient, down-to-earth setting, there is a layer of magic just waiting to be unleashed. 

I am eager to read more books set in this world. By the time I was about two-thirds done I was thinking "there better be a sequel. I want a sequel!" There is so much going on in this world and so much more to learn and explore. I happily give 4.5 hoots and look forward to Yongo's next book!

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Dragon Road | Joseph Brassey

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

Summary:

In this sequel to Skyfarer, we continue following the story of  Aimee de Laurent and Elias (formerly Azrael). Harkon, Aimee's teacher, is asked to help the proceedings for a new captain of Iseult where competition is almost literally cutthroat and no one candidate has enough support. They end up being embroiled in a conflict between an ancient, necromanctic evil working its way through the ship and trying to destroy everything. 

Review:

This was such a fun ride! I have never before read a book that made me wish my commute was longer so I'd have more time to read. This was such a wonderful follow up to Skyfarer. We get to find out so much more about the mechanics of the world and how the engines and crystals work. And we get introduced to so many more aspects of the world and it almost completely takes place on one ship! Admittedly the Iseult sounds comparable to the size of a huge city. If this one ship is any indication of the rest of the world, we've learned a lot about it.

For a book that takes place in space, it really is more fantasy than science fiction. The entire book I kept thinking about how cool this would be as an anime. Seriously! The entire Iseult, the magic, the mechanics of this world, they'd be perfect for an anime series. Not to mention the squittens! Oh my gosh, the squittens! A combination of cat and squid, these creatures almost made me belly laugh while I was reading on the bus! 

The character interaction was, to me, spot on. Elias has a complete history of darkness and death so I was very happy to see realistic reactions from the crew when he's accepted on board. He isn't immediately ingratiated, it's something that has to be earned. Meanwhile we get to learn a lot more about the rest of the crew as well. Poor Vlana getting vertigo whenever she's on world. Clutch's promiscuity. Seeing how much of a mechanical genius Vant truly is. This crew is amazing and the more I learn about them, the more I want to read.

This is a wonderful sequel, though I don't think you will have to have read the first to enjoy it. It's a fun, action-packed, fast-paced adventure where even the bureaucracy is interesting! 5 hoots!


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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Time Salvager | Wesley Chu


Summary:

James Griffon-Mars is a rare breed these days. It takes a certain kind of personality to become a chronman (time traveler), let alone the highest level without snapping. James is close, frequently getting drunk and wishing he could stay in the beautiful past, but when he's offered a job that would reduce his contract to just 6 more months on the job, he has to take it.

Review:

This was one of those delightful books that took me completely out of reality and into a new world. I would read on the bus and whenever I looked up I'd briefly wonder where I was. Honestly, I can see why this one is being turned into a movie.

As in-depth as this book went into James' life and character, this book really felt like a survey introduction of a complex and interesting world. We got a really good look at ChronoCom, but not it's sponsors, the great corporations of the galaxy. We got a comparison of how much reality sucks for those born off-world, working in the mining colonies, and those born on Earth, surviving in unbelievable levels of pollution and radiation. It really makes me want to read more of this world. Fortunately there is a sequel!

I'll admit that the time traveler risking it all for a woman he's only known for a day felt a little like a trope, especially after he's already left behind so many people he could have saved. But the world is certainly a different take than the usual time travel stories I've read before. The notion that going back in time to rescue artifacts as energy sources for the present is definitely an interesting take on our current band-aid solutions for energy. The fact that it's got all the  rich, powerful corporate backing is another.

My favorite character, hands down, was Levin Javier-Oberon. His relationship with ChronoCom goes through a similar transition to James', if a bit of a faster one. He goes from the most loyal company man to being thrown into prison for betraying the company's interests. All the while, he is true to the purpose instilled in him by the company, the benefit of all humanity. Looking at what he sacrificed, what he truly believes in more than anything, I found him to be the most interesting character.

If you're looking for a different take on time travel or a engaging, easy read, I recommend Time Salvager. 4 hoots!

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

An Ill-Fated Sky | Darrell Drake

*Image and book provided by the author for an honest review.

Summary:

In this sequel to A Star-Reckoner's Lot, we follow the story of Tirdad, picking up almost exactly where the first book left off. Tirdad becomes possessed by Ashtadukht's memories and he begins a quest to discover the conspiracy started against her that turned her into the monster she became. Along the way, he develops a deep relationship with the half-div Shkarag, formerly Waray. Along the way, Tirdad must fight his own ever present depression and regret, coupled with his cousin's memories of her depression and pain.

Review:

There's a lot of reasons I'm giving this book a 5 out of 5. The characters were wonderful to read about. The dialogue had an enjoyable blend of exposition, character development and humor. The world was even more intriguing as I got to learn more about it. 

It feels like there were a lot of improvements between this book and the one before it. In the previous book, the time skips would throw me off for several pages. In this book, everything flows. There was one point where Tirdad was re-living one of Ashtadukht's memories that threw me off for a bit, but to be fair, it threw him off as well. Also, the use of memories as an exposition tool really seemed to fit and, aside from that one moment, was executed really well. 

What was also very endearing for me was the fact that both main characters were dealing with some pretty severe depression and in their own ways. Shkarag's philactory kept putting her back together, so suicide, self-harm and other reckless behaviors were her ways. Tirdad tries to hold onto the concept of honor to justify his actions, but ends up resorting to a lot of the same reckless behaviors as Shkarag. Then there's Ashtadukht's memories of depression that show that she resorted to lashing out at others, especially when she had no one supporting her.

The fight scenes were amazingly written and I could practically see the "dance" Tirdad and Shkarag did, working together to defeat bandits and armies. We get to see all of the Eshm sisters, each "worth 30 men", fighting alongside each other to powerful effect. And that final battle! I was fully entranced. Fair warning to anyone who is squeamish, there is a fair amount of blood and bloodlust in this book. It's not gratuitous gore, but if you're sensitive to it, it might not be your thing.

Overall, I'm very happy to read this book. This is a wonderful sequel that I actually don't think you need to have read the first one for. It might help with a few gaps, but I really feel this is a standalone sequel. 5 hoots!



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