FRIDAY FACE-OFF: TREES

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Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a new weekly meme hosted by Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe.

This week’s theme is: “This solitary tree! A living thing – a cover with a tree or trees.”  And  I decided to go a bit old school on this one.


COVER A

the-white-rose



COVER B

the-white-rose-2


COVER C

the-white-rose-3


COVER D

the-white-rose-4



COVER E

the-white-rose-5

AND THE WINNER IS . . .


drumroll

I have to admit really liking Cover D, but since The Black Company is a classic fantasy series I love, I have to pick Cover A as my top choice, because not only is it nostalgic, but also because all the images directly relate to the actual story.

the-white-rose

Which would you choose?  Why?

And, why not join in next week with your own selections.

 

Posted in Cover Lover, Fantasy, Friday Face-Off, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

HAMMERS ON BONE

hammers on boneHammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

Genre: Lovecraftian Horror-Urban Fantasy-Noir

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Tor.com (October 11, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 64 pages

My Rating: 3 stars

 

Hammers on Bone is set in present day London and stars a mysterious detective, a creepy kid, and hidden horrors. Powerful, dark and filled with more than a few twists, this is a novella sure to excite fans of Lovecraftian noir.

Following along behind a loner named John Persons, readers are immediately sucked into the story when a young boy tries to hire this private eye to kill his stepfather, McKinsey. The kid explaining that some evil presence has infected McKinsey and will harm him and his brother if nothing is done to stop it. When our hard-nosed detective shows a lack of interest in his circumstances, the youth tells Persons that only he can deal with this entity, because it takes one monster to kill another (or something to that effect).

Written in the first person, Hammers on Bone is filled with 1940s noir atmosphere, plenty of internal monologue by our private dick, and lots of old school alpha dog behavior, as John Persons exhibits all the out-of-time character traits of a man from the past rather than the present. This odd behavior by our protagonist so bizarre, so completely out of touch with modern sensibilities that, at times, a reader is left wondering how a person like this could even exist in today’s PC Culture.

Even more entertaining than Persons’ quirks is whether he is actually what he appears to be. This plot line regarding the true nature of our protagonist a wonderfully developed device by Cassandra Khaw, one she deftly uses to keep her readers turning the pages. Especially entertaining is Persons’ constant snarky comments and revealing thoughts, as these tidbits of information slowly transform him from a man-out-of-time into a weird protagonists more than able to confront the evil, alien presence of McKinsey, as he helm this Lovecraftian horror escapade to its conclusion.

When the cosmic monster noir does end, most of the dangling plot threads are satisfactorily dealt with, though some do remain. There is even the indication there may be more tales coming from private eye John Persons; his story open ended enough to warrant a few more novellas to peel away the layers of his mysterious life.

Complaints (because we all know I have them) about this novella limited to only one: the lack of real suspense. Our antagonist, McKinsey, begins this tale as a powerful, monstrous entity pitted against a fairly odd and old-fashioned private detective, but by the conclusion, the roles have changed dramatically: There being no real doubt that Persons is the more powerful of the two, quite capable of easily taking down his adversary. In fact, the only real question remaining is how our private dick is going to do it and whether there will be any fallout from his release of his less-than-human side. This issue did not ruin the story for me, but it left me less satisfied by the ending than I would have been if the final confrontation had been more evenly matched.

Overall, Hammers on Bone was an entertaining, creative twist on the Lovecraftian model with enough classic noir to give it a unique flavor all its own. Certainly, it wasn’t perfect (But what is?), and I, for one, wouldn’t mind reading a sequel or two about John Persons, because I believe Cassandra Khaw could do some great things with this unique detective story.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase Hammers on Bone at Amazon

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COLD-FORGED FLAME

cold-forged-flame Cold-Forged Flame by Marie Brennan 

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Tor.com (September 13, 2016)

Author Information: Website

Length: 112 pages

My Rating: 3 stars

 

A nameless woman with no memory wakes up surrounded by a tribal chief and his people. Quickly, she discovers that she has been summoned by these strangers, bound by magic to perform a task for them. All freedom of choice taken from her as she is sent off on a ominous quest. This journey filled with numerous dangers and many obstacles, as she struggles not only to fulfill her goal but also to recall pieces of her past and uncover who and what she really is.

While I always try to read Tor.com releases, I was especially interested in Cold-Forged Flame due to Marie Brennan’s name. Marie Brennan being an author  I have become familiar with by reading the rave reviews of her series, The Memoirs of Lady Trent: the autobiography of Isabella, Lady Trent, the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. And so this shorter piece of fiction seemed the perfect time to sample her writing style to see if it was for me.

Simply put, this novella is a relatively straightforward and easily digested tale of self-discovery. Told in first person by an unreliable narrator beset by amnesia, it relies on the mystery of her true nature to drive the tale forward to its conclusion. Definitely, the quest itself leads her through strange surroundings, has her become allies with unexpected persons and even deluges her with episodes of intense violence, but the main focus of this journey is an internal one, as our lead character struggles forward in a never-ending search for answers.

As for the writing style, this novella is crisp, well executed, and admirably paced. Definitely, Marie Brennan shows her master of the writing craft, subtly keeping the mystery and tension mounting throughout the short, quick tale – even as she finds time to sprinkle in a good bit of characterization.

When the final revelations do come in Cold-Forged Flame, they are perfectly timed and quite appropriate. Not always completely unlooked for, but well executed. There are still many questions left unanswered, however, which begs the question of whether more installments in the story are forthcoming.

Conclusion: I liked this novella. There were many elements I thoroughly enjoyed including Marie Brennan’s writing style and the moody, mysterious atmosphere of the narrative, but it did leave me feeling a little bit let down by the climax. Definitely, a story worth giving a try though, one I would recommend to other fantasy fans.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase Cold-Forged Flame at Amazon.

Posted in 3 Stars, Fantasy, Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: GATEWAY BOOKS TO MY FAVORITE GENRES

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Today, the guys in the Goodreads Top 5 Wednesday group had a great topic: Gateway Books to My Favorite Genres!

Another great topic again this week.  One I can’t wait to get to, because who doesn’t like to introduce readers to your favorite genre and hope they love it as much as you do.  Since I read several genres, I’m going to try to include them all.

ALTERNATE HISTORY

fatherlandFatherland by Robert Harris

This 1992 novel is set in an alternate history where ‘The Nazis won World War II?’. What sets Robert Harris’ story apart from so many others is his attention to details: 1964 Berlin a living, breathing city filled with passionate and realistic characters, who are engaged in stunningly normal lives until fate intervenes.  In other words, this is just a great novel which highlights all the great qualities about alternate history without getting too far afield with scif-fi or fantasy elements like other alt history books out there.  Definitely a favorite of mine.

 

 

APOCALYPTIC

the_stand_uncut-2The Stand by Stephen King

The best post apocalyptic novel ever?  It might be.  Equal parts realistic, creepy, fantastical, and horrifying, this is a genre defining story that all other apocalyptic novels are compared against.  At least, in my eyes.  And even if you don’t particularly love Stephen King’s writing style, you might enjoy this book, because many of the annoying elements of his later books aren’t as noticeable here.  So I can’t think of another book from this genre I’d suggest a new reader to start with.

 

FANTASY

A GAME OF THRONESA Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

While it hurts some part of me not to list J.R.R. Tolkien here, I can’t argue with the other part of me that insists that Martin’s fantasy masterpiece has become the gateway to the genre.  It is merely the truth, as much as it hurts me to admit.  This novel, in particular, is a great illustration on how amazing fantasy can be.  And for newbies, it will definitely sell them on why they should keep on reading all the classics of the present and past, including The Lord of the Rings.

 

GRIMDARK

prince of thornsPrince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

The pinnacle of grimdark literature in my eyes.  I know others might disagree with me, but Mark Lawrence’s tale of Jorg Ancrath showcases everything that a grimdark fantasy could and should be.  And whether you love or hate the main character, Jorg Ancrath, he is a fantasy character no one will ever forget for as long as the genre lasts.   What better place to descend into the dirty, bloody, and brutal world of grimdark?  I can’t think of any.

 

SCIENCE FICTION

foundationFoundation by Isaac Asimov

Widely considered a masterpiece of the science-fiction genre, I really do not know what else to say about this work by one of the genre’s most famous authors other than to say his Foundation and Robot series were the gateway for me into the science fiction genre.  Up until reading this particular novel, I was pretty much a fantasy guy who read a few Star Wars novel occasionally.  So with that in mind I can’t think of anywhere else to start for a good, old-fashioned introduction to classic sci-fi other than Foundation.

 

Agree with me?  Disagree?  Have other books to nominate?  Tell me what you are thinking.

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WAITING ON WEDNESDAY — THE BURNING ISLE

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Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine to let readers share their excitement for books coming out soon, and the novel I’m eagerly awaiting is . . .

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the-burning-isleThe Burning Isle by Will Panzo

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Ace (November 1, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter 

Length: 304 pages

A powerful and gripping debut grimdark fantasy novel, set in a world of criminals, pirates, assassins, and magic…

“A man has only three reasons for being anywhere: to right a wrong, to earn a coin, or because he is lost.”

Cassius is not lost…

The mage Cassius has just arrived on the island of Scipio. Five miles of slum on the edge of fifty miles of jungle, Scipio is a lawless haven for criminals, pirates, and exiles. The city is split in two, each half ruled by a corrupt feudal lord. Both of them answer to a mysterious general who lives deep in the jungle with his army, but they still constantly battle for power. If a man knows how to turn their discord to his advantage, he might also turn a profit…

But trained on the Isle of Twelve, Cassius is no ordinary spellcaster, and his goal is not simply money. This a treacherous island where the native gods are restless, and anything can happen…

Purchase the book at Amazon.

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TOP TEN TUESDAY

TOP TEN TUESDAYS

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! This is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where a new top ten list hits the web every week!

This week our topic is …

BOOKS ON MY FALL TBR LIST

Trying to decide what books to read is always a great topic for me.  I have lots of books to read and never enough time.  So it shouldn’t be hard for me to select my top ten books to read this fall — especially since I’m on a mission to clean my bookshelves up.  Nope, I’m not dusting.  What I’m doing is reading novels that have been sitting around far too long.  I want to see if I like them or need to give them to someone who might.  And that is why this list is going to focus on ten books/series I intend to make give a try this fall.

curse of the mistwraith1o. THE CURSE OF THE MISTWRAITH

Janny Wurts has always been a favorite author of mine.  Indeed, this series is one I’ve been collecting since it began nearly 25 years ago.  (Could it be that long ago?)  But while I have faithfully purchased each new volume in Wars of Light and Shadow, I have not read a single page in any of those installments.  At first, I was merely waiting for a few volumes to come out, then I contracted the Robert Jordan Virus.  (You know, the one where you become terrified of beginning any long, epic fantasy series.)  Now, though, it has been long enough; either I have to love these books or leave them.

 

complete morgaine9. THE COMPLETE MORGAINE

I have actually read one of the volumes included in this collection: Exile’s Gate back in 1988.  I recall really enjoying it, but I never got around to reading the rest of the series.  So when this book came out, I made sure to pick up a copy.  But I haven’t made the time to read it.  There is no time better than the present, right?  That is why I’m going to get to this one in the next few months.

 

the eyes of god8. THE EYES OF GOD

John Marco’s Tyrants and Kings trilogy is a personal favorite of mine, so I’m sure it doesn’t surprise anyone when I admit collecting this series when it first was published.  Nope, I never got around to reading it.  Job. Marriage. Bills. Kids.  All those things began for me around the time these books hit the market, and they really cut into the reading time.  It didn’t cut into my ability to keep buying books though, so I have all four installments in this series.  Now, to read them.

 

 

the-stormcaller7. TWILIGHT REIGN

Several weeks ago, I took inventor of my books for a post.  I was amazed at how long I had owned some of the novels I found stacked up in the bookshelf.  What shocked me even more was how many of them I had never even opened.  And so, I made a vow that from this day forward I will not buy a book I do not attempt to read within a couple weeks (or, maybe, months), which is why this used bookstore find has to be read during the fall.  I always try to keep my promises.

 

temeraine6. TEMERAIRE: IN SERVICE TO THE KING 

A while back this collection of the first three volumes of Naomi Novik’s long running series fell into my hands during a used bookstore trip.  I was overjoyed to discover it.  One, because it only cost me a couple dollars.  Two, because I was glad to get several books in one volume, since I really expected to like this series.  Hopefully, it was money well spent.

 

 

scions-of-shannara5. THE SCIONS OF SHANNARA 

I’ve been making a bad joke for years now that it is a requirement that every fantasy fan have, at least, one Terry Brooks Shannara book prominently displayed on their bookshelf.  Even if you never read it, the mere presence of Shannara signifies your acceptance into the fantasy fold.  Whether you agree or disagree with the meaning behind my poor joke, I have several Shannara series on my shelves, and I want to move them, which means I’m starting with this one.

 

 

blood song4. BLOODSONG 

I bought the book due to the hype.  Now, I feel strong enough to actually take a look at it and see if the hype was well earned.  Yeah, I know opinions are mixed about the rest of the trilogy, but this one seems to be loved by nearly all, which terrifies the hell out of me.  It always seems these “Can’t Miss” books and I never get along.

 

 

before-they-are-hanged3. BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED

Another book I bought because of the hype but am now wary of reading.  I suppose I have more cause with this novel, because I didn’t love the first book in the trilogy.  It wasn’t bad necessarily, just fairly meh for me.  I know I’m committing some fantasy sin by saying that about an offering from Lord Grimdark, but my opinion is my opinion.  Be that as it may though, I do intend to read this novel, because . . . it is on my shelf.

 

the-well-of-ascension2. THE WELL OF ASCENSION 

Before anyone assumes this book by Sanderson falls into the hype-made-me-scared category, let me set you straight.  Actually, I really liked the first book of this series, The Final Empire.  It was so good, the ending so satisfactory, that I have a different problem: no desire to see what happens next.  Everything ended so well I can’t see how this book won’t be a big letdown.  But I need to read it or trade it, so I’m going to be revisiting this world in the fall.

 

the darkness that comes before1. THE DARKNESS THAT COMES BEFORE

I tried to read this quite a while ago.  It was interesting enough, but I lost my way with it.  Since setting the novel aside, I’ve read more about it, analyzed what fans love about it and what haters dislike, and I can’t help but believe this book and I should really match up well.  So, I am going to give it another try.  Hopefully, this time things work out, because I already have the next four installments of the series.  Yeah, I’m a book hoarder, I already realized that.

 

 

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SAINT’S BLOOD

saint's bloodSaint’s Blood by Sebastien de Castell

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Greatcoats #3

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books (April 7, 2016)

Length: 576 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

My Rating: 5 stars.

 

Saint’s Blood is as close to perfect as a fantasy book gets. It has hilarious characters, serious moments, jaw-dropping fights, realistic plots, and the dramatic depth to completely sweep you into another world. Sebastien de Castell outdoing himself yet again, as he proves beyond any doubts that he is a writer of incredible talent. This Three Musketeers-like story of friendship and love, loyalty and lose, trust and faith likely to cause you to slip on your own Greatcoat, take up your trusty sword, and ride out to vanquish injustice!

Fresh off their tortuous trials and improbably victory in Knight’s Shadow, Falcio val Mond, Kest, Brasti, Valiana, and company are busy trying to secure Aline’s tenuous hold on the throne of Tristia. A feat which is nearly impossible considering the nation is overcome by corruption and intrigue, carved up by power hungry Dukes, filled with incorrigible knights, and protected by only a handful of Greatcoats. But, somehow, Valiana val Mond is holding things together, proving herself a gifted leader, as she assumes the role of Realm’s Protector. Falcio, however, seems intent on ruining everything by his insatiable need to stick the pointy end of his rapiers in every noble he meets. The fact that our beloved First Cantor of the Greatcoats isn’t quite himself anymore (due to the torture he endured during the “Lament”) making matters worse, as he stumbles from dumb decision to dumb decision.

But just when things look especially hopeless for our heroes THINGS GET WORSE!

Unexpected and overwhelming, a new threat arises. An especially vile and brutal attack upon Tristia commencing in the form of churches desecrated and Saints being summarily tortured and killed. All of this done by an unknown enemy bent on not only the destruction of Aline and the Greatcoats, but also the fundamental transformation of the realm. And while stumbling from one dangerous, devious attack to another, desperate to protect those he loves, and pushed to his limits (both physically and emotionally), Falcio val Mond begins to know true doubt, truly wondering if he and his friends can uncover the identity of their formidable enemy and find the inner strength to stop things before all they have struggled for is destroyed forever!

Now, before I go on with this review, I have to go ahead and admit something: I’m a Greatcoats fanboy. Every time I pick up the next book my first urge to shriek in joy.

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Lots of reason why that is, but the main cause is my man-crush on Falcio val Mond and his friends Kest and Brasti. These three trade quips, insult one another, and generally take turns bickering throughout. But, no matter what, they are always standing together. Our trio of Greatcoats willing to face down impossible odds, fight for improbable victory, and brave hell alongside the other; Falcio, Kest, and Brasti determined to stick together through good and bad, because they are not just friends they are family. And this deep love between them is so powerful, it makes me want to be part of the group too.

musketeers

 

Just like brothers though, these guys can be cruel sometimes though. Funny, but cruel. A perfect example from the beginning of the book is when Falcio stumbles into yet another stupid duel with a young fighter he might not be able to beat. What do his best friends do? They cheer him on naturally.

‘This Undriel fellow really is remarkably skilled,’ Kest remarked.

Undriel. That was the bastard’s name.

Brasti came to my defense, after a fashion. ‘It’s not Falcio’s fault. He’s getting old. And slow. Also, I think he might be getting fat. Just look at him – barely four months since he beat Shuran and already he’s half the man he once was.’

And that small tidbit is merely the tip of the comedic iceberg, if you will. There are many laugh-out-loud moments in a story fraught with danger and hopelessness.

But since I’m being completely honest here I have to admit that Falcio is my favorite of the trio. (Sorry, Brasti. Don’t hate me.) This guy is exactly the kind of stubborn, haunted yet heroic swashbuckler I dreamed of growing up to be when I was young. Every time he stands up for a lost cause, refuses to kneel before the powerful, or finds a way to overcome sure defeat my inner child cheers. Falcio’s deep love and devotion to his friends as well as his deceased wife and king merely adding to my appreciation of him as a man of principles. Definitely, he has flaws, but even these are endearing rather than repulsive, because Falcio knows he has them (Kest and Brasti constantly point them out while also informing him his idiotic idealism is going to get them all killed eventually.) and attempts to correct or work around them. To say Falcio val Mond is quickly growing into one of my all-time favorite fantasy characters isn’t a real stretch.

FALCIO VAL MOND

These three Greatcoats are not alone on the stage though. Sharing it with them are several very realistic female characters: Aline, Valiana and Ethalia. Valiana is definitely my favorite of the bunch, as she steals the spotlight in her brief moments, showing a regal bearing and steady proficiency in ruling, which both humbles Falcio and makes him (and me) so proud of the woman she has grown into. As for the future Queen Aline, she is transformed here from the terrified girl of book one and the addled follower in book two to a more mature, innately skilled teenager, who fights to overcome her very real fears to become the person she must. And, lastly, there is Ethalia, Falcio’s fairy tale love interest; her role increasing tremendously, as she is transformed from merely a pretty face into an integral part of the plot and her relationship with the First Cantor of the Greatcoats takes on a definite realistic tone going forward.

But every cast of colorful characters must have a great villain to overcome, and Sebastien de Castell has provided yet another one in Saint’s Blood. I won’t say much about this dastardly demon, because I do not want to spoil anything, but the very sadistic and subtle scheme this antagonist unleashes upon Tristia is pretty damned impressive, filled with amazing twists and turns. And when the curtain is finally pulled back for the big reveal, this enemy is not all black at all, but numerous shades of gray; the seeds of madness and the reasons for the vile deeds so very reasonable and relatable, not so very different from Falcio’s own.

Since this is a swashbuckling adventure though, I’m sure many of you want to know about the fight scenes. Well, I am able to conclusive inform you that the fight scenes in Saint’s Blood are some of the best anywhere. Sebastien de Castell really getting you down into the combatants heads, teaching you what they are attempting to do as well as what they actually are able to do. Sometimes the swashbuckling action taking on the feel of real fencing instructions, sometimes the best Hollywood daring do, but never are any of the scenes dull or boring in the least. Every single encounter is fraught with peril, filled with dramatic tension. Honestly, no one writes dueling better than this author.

What did I dislike about the book though? I mean, I always find a few things to criticize, right? Well, my fellow haters will be happy to know I actually have three, minor complaints. None of them terribly earth shattering, since they didn’t ruin my vast enjoyment with this story, but they did bother me, so I am going to mention them.

One, the disappearance of characters throughout the story. A favorite elements of the series for me has been the introduction of new Greatcoats every story. How we get to learn about them as they are slowly integrated into the group. No, they don’t all become part of the inner circle around Falcio, but in the prior books, they have always revolved around the core trio and interacted with them in important ways that affected the plot. Here, however, several new Greatcoats make an appearance, take part in a few exciting scenes, hang around for a chapter or two, then disappear all together or for long stretches of time. Certainly, there is nothing inherently wrong with co-stars coming and going in a narrative, but here it was bothersome, especially since the reason for their disappearance was never mentioned or not adequately dealt with in my opinion.

Two, the reveal of the villain in this book was a bit of a disappointment. Not who or what this individual was, but the way it was done. The buildup to the confrontation between Falcio and company and this unknown antagonist was one of the best parts of Saint’s Blood. Sebastien de Castell dropping hints, laying false leads, and making you second guess everyone’s allegiance except for Falcio. So mesmerizing was this lead up to our villain stepping out of the shadows that I was expecting magic fireworks, huge explosions, or a “WHAT THE HELL!” moment to rival George R.R. Martin’s Hodor. I didn’t really get that. At least, not to the extent I was expecting and desiring.

Third, too much Ethalia and not enough Valiana. In the author’s defense, the story is structured in such a way that Ethalia having the more prominent role in this narrative is inevitable. Be that as it may, Valiana is much more interesting to me than Ethalia, so I am going to mention my disappointment. And it isn’t that I dislike Ethalia at all, because I don’t. Unfortunately, she does bore me, even this new and improved Ethalia. Valiana, on the other hand, is a strong woman with big issues in her past who I would love to learn more about and see utilized to the utmost. I know I’m whining a little, but I’m allowed to do that since I have now admitted to being a fanboy of this series.

What you should take away from this rather lengthy review is that I highly recommend Greatcoats books to anyone! They are pure swashbuckling fun that have more than enough dark and bloody turns to keep more grimdark inclined fans entertained. So go ahead and read them already, you know you want to.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

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ANIMAL MAN, VOL. 1: THE HUNT

guest-post2Today, I’m happy to have my son, Connor, return to the blog for yet another of his graphic novel reviews.  Thankfully, this is becoming something of a regular occasion, and I personally will be enjoying it for as long as it lasts.

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animal-man
Animal Man, Vol. 1: The Hunt by Jeff Lemire

Genre: Superhero Comics

Series: Animal Man #1

Publisher: DC Comics (May 1, 2011)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 144 pages

Connor’s Rating: 2 stars

 

I had no idea what this book was about when I got it.  My dad told me the basics about Animal Man though: he can talk to animals and use any of their powers he wants.  It sounded pretty cool, so when dad told me he really didn’t think I’d like it too much I wondered why.  Now I know why.  This book was not my thing at all, one of the first New 52 books I have thought was BAD.

Animal Man is a retired superhero who lives with his family and tries to be another normal guy.  His wife and kids know he is a superhero, but he has put his past life behind him.  Now, he spends most of his time doing ordinary stuff and trying to help his young daughter control the Animal Powers she inherited from him.  Only problem is her abilities catch the attention of weird, scary monsters from some other dimension called The Red, who come to ours looking to steal Animal Man’s daughter.

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Nothing about this book worked for me.  The story was pretty lame, being about an ordinary guy using animal powers to save his family.  I didn’t like Buddy Baker very much or his family.  And a story about a guy trying to save his family is something even I have seen a million times.  Don’t even get me started about The Red, because it did not make sense and was boring.

What was worse than the story was the art.  Weird and violent.  I’m not saying it was bad, because I’m not an artist, but I didn’t enjoy it at all.  Other people might love this stuff, I guess, but not me.

animal-man-ape

As you can tell, I didn’t like this book at all.  It made me dislike Animal Man more than like him and wasn’t fun to read at all. The art wasn’t my thing, and there was too much violence.  Hopefully, if you try this book, you will enjoy it more than I did.  And I am sorry this review is so short, but there wasn’t anything I really wanted to say about The Hunt.

Well, I hope you liked this review, and if you are on Goodreads, friend me any time to ask questions about my reviews.

batman-V-superman-logoAbout Connor (In his dad’s words):

Connor is a preteen who enjoys graphic novels (DC Comics are preferred), superhero movies (Captain America is his favorite), watching episodes of The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl  as well as the NFL, NCAA football, and the NBA on t.v., will happily accept any and all caps (because you just can’t have too many caps), and whose favorite music revolves around pop favorites of the moment such as Cake by the Ocean (Clean version because dad is still alive) as well as anything by Fall Out Boy — except for the new Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid) song which Connor denies they were ever involved with.  And, no, Connor did not have any input into my paragraph about him.  Being a dad does have it’s privileges.  :)

Purchase the book at Amazon.

Posted in 2 Stars, DC, Graphic Novels | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

STACKING THE SHELVES, VOL. 36

sTACKING THE sHELVES

Stacking the Shelves over at Tynga’s Reviews is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, whether it be physically or virtually. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

First, I’ll start with a few books I received for review from publishers.  As always, I’d like to thank these wonderful publicists (You know who you are!) for allowing me the opportunity to review these amazing novels.

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fortress-at-the-end-of-timeThe Fortress at the End of Time by Joe M. McDermott

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Tor.com (January 17, 2017)

Length: 305 pages

In The Fortress at the End of Time, humanity has expanded across the galaxy by use of ansible and clone technology, but an enemy stands in their way—an enemy alien in concept as much as physiology. Ronaldo Aldo is a clone stationed in the back-end of nowhere—a watch station with a glorious military past, but no future. He’s desperate to prove himself worthy of ascension—of having his consciousness broadcast to a newer clone, far away from his current post at the Citadel.

Purchase the book at Amazon.


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winter-tideWinter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys 

Genre: Science Fiction – Horror – Fantastical Elements

Series: The Innsmouth Legacy #1

Publisher: Tor.com (April 4, 2017)

Authors Information: Website | Twitter 

Length: 305 pages

After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. Government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.

The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.

Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.

Purchase the book at Amazon.


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These next books are ones I picked up this week while shopping online.  They are novels I was not fortunate enough to gain review copies for (though I did beg horribly for them), and so I saved my pennies until I could buy some nice hardcovers for my library, because these are authors whose books I never miss.

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the wheel of osheimThe Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence

Genre: Fantasy — Grimdark

Series: The Red Queen’s War #3

Publisher:  Ace (June 7, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter 

Length:  432 pages

Mark Lawrence’s “epic fantasy” (The Washington Post) continues as a reluctant prince returns from the bowels of Hell to engage in his greatest battle yet—among the living and the dead.

All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri Ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Kendeth, getting back out alive and with Loki’s key is all that matters. Loki’s creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jalan’s fortune back in the living world.

Jalan plans to return to the three w’s that have been the core of his idle and debauched life: wine, women, and wagering. Fate however has other plans, larger plans. The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster, and it will crack the world unless it’s stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there’s nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. Jalan and Snorri face many dangers, from the corpse hordes of the Dead King to the many mirrors of the Lady Blue, but in the end, fast or slow, the Wheel of Osheim always pulls you back. In the end it’s win or die.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

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the-last-mortal-bondThe Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley.

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Series: Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne #3

Publisher: Tor Books (March 15, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 653 pages

The trilogy that began with The Emperor’s Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire.

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all–Valyn, Adare, and Kaden–come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

Purchase the book at Amazon.


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the-autumn-republicThe Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan

Genre: Fantasy — Flintlock

Series: Powder Mage #3

Publisher:  Orbit (February 10, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter 

Length:  580 pages

The capital has fallen…
Field Marshal Tamas returns to his beloved country to find that for the first time in history, the capital city of Adro lies in the hands of a foreign invader. His son is missing, his allies are indistinguishable from his foes, and reinforcements are several weeks away.

An army divided…
With the Kez still bearing down upon them and without clear leadership, the Adran army has turned against itself. Inspector Adamat is drawn into the very heart of this new mutiny with promises of finding his kidnapped son.

All hope rests with one…
And Taniel Two-shot, hunted by men he once thought his friends, must safeguard the only chance Adro has of getting through this war without being destroyed…

THE AUTUMN REPUBLIC is the epic conclusion that began withPromise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

Posted in Stacking the Shelves | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

THE DINOSAUR LORDS

dinosaur lords
The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán.

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Dinosaur Lords #1

Publisher: Tor Books (July 28, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 448 pages

My Rating: 3.5 stars

When The Dinosaur Lords was first announced back in 2015, the hype was palpable across the fantasy genre.  The concept, the book cover, and that endorsement from George R.R. Martin created expectations which rose into the stratosphere; every fantasy reader seeming to be dying to get their hands on this cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones.

Then the novel was released.

Reviews were mixed.  Some loved it.  Some hated it.  Most naysayers felt  Victor Milán’s epic was too slow, too devoid of world building, too lacking in dinosaurs!  Even those who enjoyed this opening salvo in the series had some issues with the pacing and character development, among other things. And the majority of readers seemed to fall right in the middle of the two extremes, enjoying parts of the story but not falling in love with it.

As for me, I sat back when the novel was published and absorbed as many reviews as I could.  Naturally, the views of my favorite bloggers were most closely examined, but I also tried to understand everyone’s love or angst with the finished product.  And as I did this my expectations for the book changed, which was a stroke of good luck for me.  You see, that meant when I finally fit The Dinosaur Lords into my reading schedule, my expectations were close to normal; the hype for fantasy dinosaurs having cooled down somewhat; and I was able to appreciate this book for what it is: a solid — if not spectacular — introduction to an epic fantasy series which happens to incorporate dinosaurs into its narrative.

Opening with a flash, The Dinosaur Lords drops readers down into a huge battle between the Empire of Neuvaropa and rebellious nobles.  Here Count Jaume Llobregat, a young, dashing, warrior-poet fights for his Emperor along side his dinosaur knight brothers, as they prepare to find beauty in the horrors of war.  But even though his ideals are the most pure, Jaume finds loyalty to his betters calling upon him to do something very unchivalrous; his orders to aid the rebel Duke Falk von Hornberg in killing famed mercenary captain Karyl Bogomirskiy and destroying his legendary Triceratops corps.  This vile deed of betrayal weighing heavily on Jaume’s soul.

Back at the residence of the Emperor (not in the capital, because His Highness doesn’t like that drafty place at all), the imperial princess Melodía anxiously awaits her lover Jaume.  With the battle with the northern nobles won, she longs for him to finally return to court, not only for the comfort of his presence and the release of her pent up sexual frustrations, but also because she is slowly becoming aware that political machinations are brewing around her, especially since her father seems easily influenced by whomever bends his ear last.  The princess hopeful that Jaume’s calming presence might end the constant waxing of Duke Falk von Hornberg’s power as well as stifle the growing talk of a crusade against the Garden of Truth and Beauty in far off Providence.

Meanwhile, across the kingdom, the commoner named Rob Korrigan (who found himself playing an unexpected but significant role in Jaume’s betrayal of Karyl Bogomirskiy) finds himself hired to track down Karyl, who seems not to be quite as dead as everyone thought.  Rob’s task to convince the mercenary captain to travel to Providence, where they are to aid the Garden of Truth and Beauty in raising and training a fighting force to defend their lands from neighboring nobles bent of their total destruction.  Sounds simple, but Rob isn’t sure if this stranger is really the legendary Karyl, and even if he is, he must somehow talk him into taking up a lost cause.

But there is far more transpiring on the world of Paradise than just these petty royal rivalries or isolated conflicts.  Brief interludes in the narrative revealing that the Creators’ mysterious Grey Angels are watching the world very closely.  These supernatural being taking an interest in the outcome of everything for some obscure reason, waiting for the right time, the right moment, to reappear and deal out judgement and retribution upon the masses!

For me, The Dinosaur Lords was a fine introduction to Victor Milán’s world and its denizens.  It wasn’t perfect, didn’t reinvent the fantasy genre, and had its share of issues, but overall, it was an enjoyable read albeit a slow one at times.

Definitely, my favorite part of any story (including this one) is getting to know the characters I’ll be following along behind.  Certainly, I will like some more than others, but whatever there role is to be (hero, villain, bystander) I expect to be show their public and private faces, understand them enough to want to learn more about them.  And here I thought Victor Milán did a nice job showcasing each of his cast of colorful characters. From mysterious Karyl to spoiled Melodía, from noble Jaume to complex Falk, from dino lover Rob to perplexing Emperor Felipe, I met and grew to like or dislike each one of them in turn, allowing me to begin to take sides in the story as it unfolded, and while there was some truth to criticism that several seemed a bit overpowered, I chose to overlook that issue, trusting that Mr. Milán would correct that problem as the story evolved.

World building was the other area I really enjoyed here.  I personally found myself drawn into this eerily similar yet distinctly different 14th Century European culture.  The dynastic rivalries, political feuds, religious conflict, and overt Spanish cultural touches were a welcome change of pace from the more common British influenced fantasy I tend to see littering the bookshelves.  Certainly, Victor Milán could have devoted even more time to developing the culture of this place, revealed more of its confusing past (I mean, does anyone know if this is another world or another dimension at this point?), and filled in some of the grey areas about the current state of the Empire, but even though he did not do those things, I still felt the 14th Century Spanish environment was fertile fantasy ground, which he put to good use overall.

But what about the dinosaurs?  I hear some of you shouting out there.

Well, they are all here.  A plethora of dinosaurs fully integrated into the narrative, as they co-exist side-by-side with humans on this world called Paradise.  Naturally, there are many different kinds of dinos: domesticated breeds, who walk around as beasts of burden; wild dinos, who roam the countryside as ravaging beasts; even war dinosaur, who are raised to be mounts for the feared dinosaur knights of this world.  And, these later dinosaurs are really the stars of the show, for whenever they appear the spotlight is firmly on them; their fearsome nature, terrifying power, and overwhelming magnetism drawing the reading eye, turning every battle scene in The Dinosaur Lords into a must read.  Victor Milán’s writing ability shining its brightest when he describes these fearsome behemoths of war thundering across a field of battle, leaving all in their wake.  The only negative to this full integration of dinos into human society that, outside of the battles, these beasts fade into the background, as you forget they are there, because they are another part of daily life among these people, so while the author never fails to integrate them into the ongoing narrative, they are not anything for the characters to get excited about, just like people these days think nothing of handheld computers, drones, or any number of technological marvels that once would have caused quite an uproar in people.

The main criticism I have of this novel is the pacing of the story.  It is a slow moving affair for the most part.  Once the battle at the beginning ends, the narrative proceeds at a snail’s pace.  We have long speeches by characters we do not really know yet.  Conversations are drawn out a bit too far with too much internal monologue included.  Plots take forever to form.  Mysteries are hinted at over and over again.  Revelations about characters and events are slow in developing (if they ever come at all).  And the climaxes do not quite live up to the buildup.  These missteps resulting in The Dinosaur Lords being a book which steadily moves forward but seemingly never goes anywhere.

The other issue I had was the vulgarity and sex scenes.  Cursing doesn’t offend me.  (Unfortunately, I do it far too often in real life.)  I have had sex before, so I’m fairly familiar with how it works.  (Unfortunately, I don’t do that nearly as much as I’d like.)  These two things do bother me when all the cursing and sex do not seem to have much to do with the story that I am reading, however.  And there were moments in The Dinosaur Lords where I wondered if Victor Milán really needed to add that curse word or that sexual reference for the tale to progress forward.  My answer far too many times was no, which meant the only reason it was there was for shock effect.  I hate shock effect in writing.  I just do.  So this was a major problem for me personally.

The net outcome of all these positives and negatives is that I really enjoyed The Dinosaur Lords.  It had some issues here and there, which did slow down the fun, but I can’t resist dinosaurs in an epic fantasy.  I mean, Victor Milán has caught lightning in a bottle with this idea.  Whether he can make it live up to its tremendous potential hasn’t been determined yet, but he did enough in this book to send me back to the bookshelf to immediately read book two in the series.  And, for me, that is saying a lot.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

Posted in 3 Stars, Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments