Tuesday, March 25, 2014

REVIEW: Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes (Peter Grant, #4) Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It's book 4 and by far the weakest book of the series. I was never a fan of the writing because it was too dense for my taste, but I tolerated it. Not this time. The writing was too dry and tangential, and it was the yucky result of a meager plot.

+ the plot

The plot didn't hit the ground running till the last third of the book when Peter and Lesley went undercover to sniff out the perp. It was the only part of the book that held any excitement for me, and just barely. The rest of the book was swamped with boring, irrelevant world building shit.

+ the protagonist

The characters showed little growth, especially the star of the series. Peter as the bumbling magician apprentice amused me, but the humor wore thin after a couple of chapters. One of the things I liked about Peter was how he experimented and practiced his magic, but book 4 didn't have this. Peter became complacent, and I didn't like it.

I also didn't like how Peter was jealous of Lesley meeting someone else. What the fuck was that all about? He should have been happy she was moving on with her life. I didn't think Peter harbored romantic feelings for Lesley and that his relationship with her was just camaraderie. I guess I fooled myself into thinking this was one of those rare fictions where the male lead only sees his female buddy cop just as a friend. Genre fiction and TV have taught me better.

+ the antagonists

As for the bad guys, I'm very disappointed with the peripheral role the Faceless Man had after the book hinted so much about him. Case in point, he only appeared for one moment. The book may have been showing there were other magic-capable villains in the world beside the Faceless Man, the series' Big Bad, but these villains came off as mere distractions. They made the mystery feel like an intermission.

Conclusion

I rate Broken Homes 2-stars for it was okay. The writing was bad but I guess I should be happy it wasn't purple prose like in the Matthew Swift series. Regardless, the book broke my enthusiasm for this series. The plot twist at the end felt like a last ditch effort to make the book not frivolous. Nice try, but the book is still a glorified novella.


Book Description

My name is Peter Grant, and I am a keeper of the secret flame — whatever that is.

Truth be told, there's a lot I still don't know. My superior Nightingale, previously the last of England's wizardly governmental force, is trying to teach me proper schooling for a magician's apprentice. But even he doesn't have all the answers. Mostly I'm just a constable sworn to enforce the Queen’s Peace, with the occasional help from some unusual friends and a well-placed fire blast. With the new year, I have three main objectives, a) pass the detective exam so I can officially become a DC, b) work out what the hell my relationship with Lesley Mai, an old friend from the force and now fellow apprentice, is supposed to be, and most importantly, c) get through the year without destroying a major landmark.

Two out of three isn’t bad, right?

A mutilated body in Crawley means another murderer is on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil, who may either be a common serial killer or an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man — a man whose previous encounters I've barely survived. I've also got a case about a town planner going under a tube train and another about a stolen grimoire.

But then I get word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans, and inhabited by the truly desperate. If there's a connection to the Crawley case, I'll be entering some tricky waters of jurisdiction with the local river spirits. We have a prickly history, to say the least.

Just the typical day for a magician constable.

Goodreads | Amazon
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

REVIEW: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I tried this book twice and put it down on both counts after a few pages. I couldn't get pass the juvenile writing, which was weird because I read Middle Grade, if only occasionally... I must have been in a bad mood those times, because the third time I tried the book, the writing didn't annoy me. Furthermore, I ended up liking the book!

What I Liked

The book was fast paced. The action was abundant. I never felt like I had to wait for anything to happen.

The hero and his two companions were likable. One boy coming into his power and destiny, one boy serving as the bumbling sidekick, and one girl keeping the two boys grounded with her intelligence. It's formulaic, but it's true and tried.

I liked Percy because of his sense of justice and how he stood up for his friends. I liked how quickly he took to battle and how he realized if a certain part of the Greek mythos was real, then he had a way to save his mother. I didn't expect Percy to be tolerably competent.

Grover didn't endear me because I do not care for bumbling sidekicks. They tend to be a liability and make main characters do stupid things. Thankfully, the satyr wasn't as much of a bumbling sidekick as I dreaded. I admired his resilience and his dream of finding his patron god, Pan, regardless of the abysmally low odds and the super high danger.

Annabeth was cool for a character with angst and regrets. I liked that despite her loyalty to her patron goddess, Athena, she thought for herself and stood by Percy.

What I Didn't Like

I didn't care for the gods. They acted more like misbehaving kids than sociopathic gods. I couldn't believe Zeus and Hades actually believed Percy, a 12 year old boy who was new to their magical world and to his water power, stole their symbols of power. Seriously? It was stupid on many levels.

Another thing I found hard to believe was that Percy could fight Ares, god of war, pretty well. I liked how capable Percy was at fighting, but come on. There's a limit. God of fucking war versus a 12 year old boy with little fighting experience. Percy and his friends should have run for their lives.

I did say Percy was competent, but I didn't say he always made good decisions. But I don't blame him for this because I liked his sense of justice and he was a growing boy. I simply wish someone had taken him aside and taught him not to provoke supernaturals and gods and made him consider the consequences of his impulsive actions.

Finally, I wish there was depth to the bad guys, especially with the Big Bad. Making the Big Bad flatly evil and his minion brainwashed was a wasted opportunity. I like a classic Good versus Evil conflict, but there could have been themes of environment, misanthropy, and justice in moral ambiguity. Instead, there were caricatures. It was disappointing to see the villains were not as developed as our heroes.

Conclusion

I rate The Lighting Thief 3-stars for I like it. Third time was the charm. I'm glad I jumped on the bandwagon and picked up this series.

If you like this series, try The Mythos Academy, a young adult series by Jennifer Estep. It has a similar premise.


Book Description

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

Goodreads | Amazon
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

REVIEW: One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

One Man Guy One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up because the book description promised humor and romance, and I love humor and romance. Not to mention the book cover was cheery yellow. Sure enough, the book was accurate as advertised.

I had worried how the theme of homophobia would be presented because I didn't want Alek and Ethan to get hurt. I didn't want to read something sad especially when the book promised humor. I still recall the disappointment of How to Repair a Mechanical Heart. Thankfully, the theme of acceptance put my worries to rest.

+ the characters

As I followed Alek's narration, I couldn't help but think about my teenage years. Alek made several bad decisions such as cutting class and lying to his parents. However, I found it pretty hard to condemn him for his decisions because it would be the pot calling the kettle black. As I judged Alek, I also judged myself. I cringed as my memories threw out all the stupid things I did on the front stage of my mind. I know one does not need the moral high ground to point out something that is outright stupid, but I still cringed regardless.

I had little problem judging Ethan, though. Heh. While most of the blame is upon Alek, Ethan was no innocent. Ethan was awesome for saving Alek from a bully, but it didn't change the fact that he was a bad boy cliche. He was part of a clique called D.O., which is short for Drop Outs and self-explanatory. The D.O. were the last classmates Alek should be hanging out with. If Alek wasn't easily influenced I wouldn't have cared, but he was. Ethan led Alek on the same prospectless path. I liked that Ethan was broadening Alek's world horizon, but they could have done it without delinquency.

Finally, Ethan wasn't sensitive to Alek's needs, which I found highly ironic. Ethan was making the same mistake with Alek as his selfish ex-boyfriend made with him. I didn't care for Ethan for most of the book, but in the end he won my heart as he won Alek's.

Alek and Ethan were flawed enough to be believable, but smart enough to realize their mistakes so the story was not frustrating to read. I liked that they were portrayed as teenagers who made stupid mistakes and not stupid teenagers being stupid.

Honorable mention is Becky, Alek's best friend. I saw the misunderstanding with her a mile away. I'm glad it was quickly fixed. I was relieved she stayed a true friend and supported Alek throughout the book. I loved how bluntly she pointed out that Alek had a crush on Ethan immediately after Alek told her about his new friendship with Ethan. It was funny how Alek could be so oblivious about himself and other people.

+ the plot

In the beginning, Alek's Armenian heritage was the source of his teenage drama. Alek's family was high-maintenance, and they had high expectations for their children, Alek and his big brother Nik. But later Alek came to realize that as much as the heritage was a pain in the neck for him, it was an important part of his identity and pride. Because of Alek, I learned a bunch about the Armenian history, culture, and food — especially the food. Warning: do not read this book on an empty stomach.

The romance was slow and nice for one that had several red flags because Alek made bad decisions. The ending was a HEA, which pleasantly surprised me. The most I expected was an Okay For Now ending, not even a Happy For Now ending, because it is a Young Adult contemporary. It was a little unbelievable how quickly some of the characters reconciled, but I confess I didn't care.

The one thing that book dropped the ball on was the bullying. It was unbelievable that Alek and the bully were on good term after the incident. But based on the many things the book could have dropped the ball on and the overwhelming theme of reconciliation, I let it slide.

Conclusion

I rate One Man Guy 4-stars for I really liked it. I bumped the book up a star because it left a big grin on my face at the end, unlike How to Repair a Mechanical Heart.

For a book that simply promised humor and romance, it delivered a lot more than humor and romance. There were themes of family, friendship, acceptance, and reconciliation to list a few. And then there was the HEA, which was icing on the cake. I can totally imagine the book as a romantic comedy movie.


Book Description

Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Why bother, when their home cooking is far superior to anything "these Americans" could come up with? Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshmen year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.

Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. When Ethan gets Alek to cut school and go to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City’s Central Park, Alek embarks on his first adventure outside the confines of his suburban New Jersey existence. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again.

Michael Barakiva's One Man Guy is a romantic, moving, laugh-out-loud-funny story about what happens when one person cracks open your world and helps you see everything—and, most of all, yourself—like you never have before.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

REVIEW: Please Don't Tell my Parents I'm a Super Villain by Richard Roberts

Please Don't Tell my Parents I'm a Super Villain Please Don't Tell my Parents I'm a Super Villain by Richard Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was so fun I was downhearted when it ended. Penny and her two friends kept me guessing and excited with their capers. It took a couple chapters before the excitement started, but once it did I savored every page of it.

What I Liked

For characters who got carried away and into deeper trouble when they were trying to get out of it, Penny, Ray, and Claire were marvelously competent. They made Penny the leader of the team because she was super smart. Furthermore, they actually listened to her, avoiding the trap super people on a team commonly fall into in other books of all age categories. Known as The Inscrutable Machine, Penny's team practiced teamwork. They knew when to fight and preen, and when to retreat. They learned from their mistakes and took heed of advice. Not to say they were not reckless because they absolutely were when they could have ceased their mischief at any time. However, they controlled their recklessness greater than I ever expected.

Penny, Ray, and Claire were so mature that I often forgot that they were young teens on the cusp of high school and not full blown teens. I loved that there was never any condescension against their age. Penny and her friends were dangerous kids and the other characters treated them like dangerous kids. The danger was real no matter that the characters were sometimes playful about it.

While I loved the entire team, Penny was my favorite character. I loved how the book presented her as the star in more than just making her first person viewpoint as the exclusive viewpoint of the book. She had issues so it was easy for me to relate to her. One of her issues was living up to her parents' expectations, and that was something I totally understood. She had tenacity so it was easy for me to root for her. Hurray for a kickass heroine! Not only that, it was her super intelligence that made her kickass. I loved that the book made being smart cool and a revered trait of strength.

Finally, I also loved the fact she didn't let her crush on Ray preoccupy her mind. There was a love triangle between her, Ray, and Claire but thankfully, it didn't disrupt their friendship. I loved that the book never made a big deal of the issue and that the issue was kept in the background where it rightfully belonged. The issue popped up occasionally but it always dropped back down in deference to more important priorities, like surviving the next battle. Young Adult protagonists should take notes from this Middle Grade protagonist.

What I Didn't Like

I didn't like Ray's character development. One, it was severely lacking compared to his friends. I learned a lot about Penny and her family, and Claire and her family. But I didn't learn anything about Ray and his family except for the fact that they were vanilla humans and not as rich as his friends' family.

Two, I didn't like how he kicked his human talent of intelligence to the curb once he acquired his superpower. I understood his inferiority complex. Nobody likes feeling helpless and seeing injustice. I only wished he had come to realize his complex and that he was overcompensating. It would have been wonderful if he worked with Penny on her inventions and plans. It was such a shame that he pigeonholed himself as the team's muscle.

The second thing was Generic Girl, one of the superheroes our team fought. It was weird how she appeared once and never appeared again after. She could have easily been the one to stop The Inscrutable Machine if she persevered, especially when she and Penny knew each other's secret identities. Not to mention the fact that the community of supers worried about her as much as they worried about The Inscrutable Machine. That worry disappeared after it was mentioned once. The plot piece was a loose end, and I didn't like it.

What I Had Mixed Feelings

I worried a bunch about the karma The Inscrutable Machine would reap. They were dangerous kids and they were marvelously competent. However, it didn't change the fact that they were still kids, and they were kids going against superheroes and seriously bad people instead of sidekicks their age towards the end. Not to mention the collateral damage.

It was amazing and unrealistic how the gang prevailed every time. The book description was true to its words. Penny and her friends did always come out on top. That said, it was more delightfully and relievingly amazing to me than it was annoyingly unrealistic.

On one hand, it bothered me that Penny and her friends got off scot-free with some of the characters none the wiser, especially towards the end. On the other hand, I derived enormous amount of entertainment in the book being purely a work of youth escapism. Ultimately, this was the hand that won out.

Conclusion

I rate Please Don't Tell my Parents I'm a Super Villain 4-stars for I really liked it. Totaling 384 pages, the book is big and indulgent. I highly recommend the book if you're looking for a super fun superheroes read.


Book Description

Penelope Akk wants to be a superhero. She's got superhero parents. She's got the ultimate mad science power, filling her life with crazy gadgets even she doesn't understand. She has two super powered best friends. In middle school, the line between good and evil looks clear.

In real life, nothing is that clear. All it takes is one hero's sidekick picking a fight, and Penny and her friends are labeled supervillains. In the process, Penny learns a hard lesson about villainy: She's good at it.

Criminal masterminds, heroes in power armor, bottles of dragon blood, alien war drones, shape shifters and ghosts, no matter what the super powered world throws at her, Penny and her friends come out on top. They have to. If she can keep winning, maybe she can clear her name before her mom and dad find out.


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Sunday, March 9, 2014

REVIEW: Longing for Spring by Mariko Hihara

Longing for Spring Longing for Spring by Mariko Hihara, illustrated by
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Story-wise, the book was pretty good. Product-wise, it was pretty bad.

+ the story

The uke and seme were typical, but they weren't a caricature. They weren't as meek and cruel, respectively, as the book description and cover suggested to me. (Not that I would have minded it anyway.) The uke was fortitudinous, and the seme was sympathetic. I liked the couple in no time flat.

It was pretty well plotted for a yaoi that I had low expectations for. Not to mention decently translated, considering the publisher. The dubcon smut was hot and plentiful. It took no effort for me to believe the men belonged together.

Unfortunately, the sexytimes were too brief for my liking. No scene lasted long enough for me to feel heat. I would have been fine about it were it not for the climax and the censorship.

The climax had to go serious and sad on me for a couple pages before it got to the HEA. The seme was already sympathetic. I was perfectly fine being told of the seme's tragic past. I really didn't need a flashback to show the sad to me. It was a buzz kill. I wanted the book return to the smut. The HEA was pretty bittersweet. YMMV, though. Some readers may find it heartwarming.

+ the product

The yaoi was censored. The penises were whitened out. *eye twitch* BUT it's my fault for not reading the book description fully and learning the sexual content would be censored on Kobo. *smack self*

The book has 80 pages. There are a couple extra pages that the Japanese version doesn't have (or at least the scanlated version of it). The two extra pages at the beginning explains the time period. The five extra pages at the climax contains the aforementioned flashback. You're not missing out on anything if you read the scanlation.

Conclusion

I rate Longing for Spring 3-stars for I liked it. Mildly. I don't recommend buying it on Kobo, 90% coupon code or not. I strongly recommending buying it on Nook where it isn't censored.


Book Description

Set in post-World War II Japan, this is a story of young Haruomi, an heir of the prominent Morimura family. Stripped of his aristocratic title while facing a repossession of his estate, Haruomi finds himself thrown on the mercy of a wealthy Japanese American, Tsutomu Oshio.

At first, Oshio wants nothing to do with a naïve noble. After all, he hates the Japanese above all else. Yet as the days go by, Oshio finds himself inexplicably drawn to Haruomi’s innocence. Driven by a desire to rid himself of his newfound feelings, Oshio sets it upon himself to disrupt Haruomi’s flawless façade.

Through the hope of saving his bedridden mother’s life, Haruomi accedes to Oshio’s scandalous demands to become his “servant”. Thus, Haruomi’s new life as his master’s plaything begins…

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

REVIEW: Switchblade Goddess by Lucy A. Snyder

Switchblade Goddess (Jessie Shimmer, #3) Switchblade Goddess by Lucy A. Snyder
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It's hard to believe this is the final book of the Jessie Shimmer series, because it was written like another middle book of the series. The Virtii were still out to kill Jessie. Miko was still alive to kill innocent people. To add insult to injury, a new plot line arose at the last minute that would have our heroes make new enemies. The fuck? As if they didn't have enough already!

+ frustration #1

Let's talk about the Virtii. In book 2, I was miffed with how our heroes didn't make the Virtii a priority, but I let it slide because our heroes had more immediate concerns. This book is book 3, and there was no more excuse in book 3. Our heroes, or Jessie to be specific, had ample downtime to think about the Virtii.

It was ridiculous how Jessie spent a total of a few minutes in the entire book to think about the Virtii. It irritated me how she treated the matter like it was a case of the zits and let her father handle the matter of hiding her ass. For a bleeding heart heroine, it never occurred to her that there was a chance the Virtii, with their twisted sense of justice, might involve her loved ones, or the local governing circle our heroes recently made peace with in book 2, to get to her. Talk about irresponsible! And it was just tip of the iceberg.

+ frustration #2

Further down on the iceberg was Miko. I couldn't believe Jessie helped Miko exorcised the Goad demon that possessed her and paralyzed her from doing evil. One, Miko was a mass murderess. Two, she was a sexual predator. Three, she was a fucking mass murderess and sexual predator. Good grief! I appreciated how the book tried to humanize her. I really do. It was good display of character development. It was very tragic and fucked up what happened to Miko.

Nevertheless, it didn't change the fact that she was a villain. By helping her, Jessie allowed her to escape and kill more innocent people, oath or no oath. Miko was a villain, and villains tend to loophole around oaths. If Jessie wanted to help Miko, what Jessie should have done was put Miko down and end her suffering, or at the very least, imprison her till Jessie could find a way to unfuck Miko. No surprise to learn later on that Jessie got tricked by Miko and ended up getting fucked herself. Literally.

+ frustration #3

There was so much rape. Rape this. Rape that. Miko got raped. Miko raped her birth father. Shift to present: Miko raped Jessie in her dream. Miko raped Jessie's boyfriend Cooper in her dream. It took the word "mindfuck" to a whole new level! The plot spent a long third of the book on the rapefest!

I was frustrated how it took a several chapters before Jessie asked another character for help and exorcised Miko from her dreams and hellement. Because despite the daily rapefest nightmares, Jessie was well-adjusted enough to ask for help, and because the book treated sex and violence towards our heroes without crippling lasting impact, which was one of the few good things about the book. No trip to emo-land for this series. A medicine woman, who was treating Pal, Jessie's familiar, was housing Jessie for that entire third of the book of a rapefest. Jessie never thought to ask the medicine woman for help. *facedesk*

+ frustration #4

Then, there was the issue with Warlock and how he got mindfucked by Miko in book 2 in raping Jessie. I was happy things mended between him, Jessie, and Cooper, Jessie's boyfriend and Warlock's older brother. Yay no for love triangle. But was it really necessary to have Warlock go shacking up with Jeremy, Jessie's older brother?

It didn't surprise me that Jeremy swung gay because there were hints since book 2, but it did surprise me as much as it surprised Jessie that Warlock swung gay too. If Warlock was characterized as so in the beginning, I wouldn't have cared and in fact, would have been happy for the pair. But he wasn't, and like magic he suddenly was towards the end. It was plain to me that the new character "development" of Warlock was a deus ex machina to guillotine the love triangle. The affair left me cold.

Conclusion

I rate Switchblade Goddess 2-stars for it was okay only because I’ve read worse series end it's sad to say. The Jessie Shimmer series is over, but it's incomplete. I strongly do not recommend the series if readers want proper resolution.

Review of book 2: Shotgun Sorceress


Book Description 

Hell hath no fury like a goddess scorned.

When Jessie Shimmer traveled to a nightmare underworld to save her lover, Cooper Marron, she gained magical powers . . . which soon seemed more like curses. Her beloved familiar, the ferret Pal, became a monster. Her enemies multiplied like demons. Worst of all, she hasn’t found a moment of peace to be with the man she adores.

Now a switchblade-wielding demigoddess commanding a private hell stocked with suffering innocents is after her. The blademistress’ vengeance sends Jessie and Pal on a dark journey through strange, perilous realms. Their quest for salvation will push her newfound abilities—and her relationship with Cooper—to the breaking point . . . and beyond.

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Friday, March 7, 2014

REVIEW: Shotgun Sorceress by Lucy A. Snyder

Shotgun Sorceress (Jessie Shimmer, #2) Shotgun Sorceress by Lucy A. Snyder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 2 picked up where book 1 ended, with our heroes recovering from book 1’s shitstorm. I liked that it took a while before book 2’s shitstorm erupted because our heroes deserved their rest. And they deserved to have some of their issues resolved.

It would have broken my heart if Cooper’s kid brothers had to go through another tragedy. One satanic affair is one too many, and I hate it when kids are embroiled. So, I was very glad to see things were improving for Cooper’s family. I was also very glad that the conflict with the local Governing Circle resolved peacefully and unexpectedly neatly. Huzzah! Finally, a government leader who knows what’s what and has an ethical backbone. However, the Virtii, inviolable elemental spirits of judgement, were still on Jessie’s ass. But two out of three ain’t bad.

That said, I was disappointed how the conflict with the Virtii was completely sidelined. While our heroes had more immediate concerns once they got trapped in Texas, it didn’t excuse them from making the Virtii one of their priorities. All they did was run and hide. Instead, it should have been run, hide, and (at some point in downtime) brainstorm some ideas on how to deal with the Virtii for the long term. Our heroes were very lucky the Virtii didn’t intrude again in Texas to make sure our heroes would meet their ends, instead of gambling on Miko to do it for them.

+ the romance

Jessie and Cooper’s sexytimes caught me by surprise because it’s uncommon for urban fantasies to be this explicit, but I didn’t mind. I thought it was good that Jessie and Cooper had a healthy sexual relationship, and wow, did Jessie have a libido. It was refreshing to see a woman as the pursuer and not someone paranormal who needed sex for sustenance.

The scenes allowed me to learn more about their relationship, which left me concerned because our horny duo were damaged characters. The series held a great chance for a wheelbarrow full of romance drama. For the most part, the romance drama didn’t happen. Key word: for the most part. There was a misunderstanding towards the end, but to be fair, our characters were being played by the villain.

+ my least favorite part

My least favorite part of the book was when Miko, book 2’s villain of the week, kicked our heroes’ ass. The demigoddess of death could mind control people and liked to wield sex as a weapon. To remind, our heroes were damaged characters so it was easy to predict how things were going to go. This series really knew how to put out effective villains. To my relief, our heroes were capable and were not greatly injured as my pessimistic side feared, but the rape scenes were more than I could bare.

What was egregious was the ending. The conflict with Miko was left hanging. The ending wasn’t an ending of a book; it was an ending of a chapter.

+ my favorite part

My favorite part of the book was when Jessie practiced her newfound abilities from book 1. She was quick to recognize the side effects, quick to determine she had a little demonic possession going on, and quick to put her abilities to battle despite those obstacles. Most importantly, she didn’t refuse help when it mattered. For instance, she asked her familiar, Palimpsest, to watch over her when she spiritually visited her hellement.

I also liked how Jessie adapted to the new development of her blood family. I was worried the issue would fester because the lack of family is what caused her to be damaged. There were too many issues that could have sent the heroine deep into emo-land, but thankfully, the heroine kept her feet on the ground.

Conclusion

I rate Shotgun Sorceress 3-stars for I liked it. Alas, I do not recommend the series. I finished book 3, the final book of the series, and it was not good.

Review of book 3: Switchblade Goddess


Book Description

BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE

For Jessie Shimmer, everything changed when she went to hell and back to save her lover, Cooper Marron. After tangling with supernatural forces and killing an untouchable spirit lord, Jessie finds herself gifted—or perhaps cursed—with dark powers. And when she and Cooper make love, her pleasure throes light the whole house on fire. What is a sorceress to do?

Jessie is about to find out. The circumstances of her birth, the mystery of a father she never knew, and the help of a cuddly ferret turned fearsome monster have made Jessie not just an outlaw from mundane society, but an accidental revolutionary in the magic realm. Encountering portals stitched into thin air and a fiercely sexy soul harvester, Jessie rushes headlong among enemies, horrors, wonders, and lovers into a place of self-discovery—or destruction.


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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

REVIEW: The Pirate's Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Pirate's Wish (The Assassin's Curse, #2) The Pirate's Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: spoilers

Book 2 wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be after reading a negative review. Make no mistake. The book was bad, but it was not insufferably bad. I credit my endurance to my love of manga.

+ the characters

Ananna was a complete brat. I went from liking her in book 1 to hating her in book 2 in one second. She showed no appreciation for the food Naji brought to her, the concern he showed for her, or protection he provided for her. She whined about everything. She threw a tantrum virtually in every chapter.

Hell, immediately in the beginning the reader could see how cold hearted she was when she showed no grief over Eirnin’s death, the wizard who was helping her survive on the deadly island. The wizard may have been amoral and catfighting with her love interest, but he was nice enough to overlook Naji with and help Ananna regardless. All that goodwill, and not a fucking shred of grief. She even went on to befriend Eirnin’s killer. I wanted to push the brat off a cliff.

I was shocked how quickly and how well Ananna and Eirnin’s killer got along. Not only did the killer kill Eirnin, she was also a man-eating beast. Or perhaps it said a lot that only someone like Ananna could be friends with a man-eating beast. As they say, birds of a feather flock together.

The only reason I could tolerate Ananna was because she was a classic tsundere. Tsundere is a common trope in manga, especially in the harem type. When one reads as much manga as I do, one inevitably builds tolerance for tsunderes. It’s either that or give up manga altogether (not a chance in hell).

Naji was the most pitiful character in the story, never mind that he was an assassin with rare, powerful blood magic. Afflicted with a curse, abused by Ananna, stuck on a godforsaken island, bedeviled by supernaturals from another dimension, enslaved eternally to an order of assassins, ostracized because of his scary magic. Could his life be more miserable?

I totally understood why Naji was always stoic. How else could he survive? I hated how he never got compensated for his suffering. Talk about no good deed goes unpunished.

some supporting characters: For a man-eating beast, Ongraygeeomryn the manticore was surprisingly high maintenance and funny. She turned out to be pretty nice. She was nicer than Ananna. Go figure.

Pirate captain Marjani and Queen Saida were wonderful. They were women of authority, queer, and in a happily renewed relationship. The book won points for feminism, diversity, and a healthy romance. Though they were only supporting characters, the pair balanced out the emotional heroine (to put it nicely) and her manly stoic love interest in terms of gender dynamics. The ladies also helped keep the angst down.

+ the plot

The plot didn’t go anywhere till the middle of the book when Ananna and her companions finally escaped the island and resumed their adventure. High points were hit and miss. For example, the scene where Marjana reunited with Saida and the one where Ananna reunited with her family both felt flat. I didn’t receive the “I love you, and I’m never letting you go out of my sight ever again.”-like reaction that I wanted.


SPOILERS.


In addition, the entire plot pivoted on dei ex machina. Apparently, one manticore is all that’s needed to conquer battleships and keep the unscrupulous in check, nevermind how outnumbered and outmatched our heroes and their very tentative allies were. The super rare starstones needed for the second impossible task to break the curse? Oh, Ananna’s family had them all along. The third and final impossible task to break the curse? Magic shamelessly pulled out of one’s ass. Even so, I didn’t give a fuck because anything that got the plot moving along and wrapping up loose ends was good apple juice. I was ready for the book to be done since chapter one.

Speaking of the ending, it stinked. Ananna and Naji finally got together only to separate because Ananna wanted to return to her pirate life and Naji had to return to slavery as an Order assassin. They said they’ll see each other again, but who the fuck are they kidding? Long distance relationships don’t work out. After all the crap they went through and what I had to put up with, the pair went back to their old lives. It rendered the series pointless.

Thankfully, the ending wasn’t as cold a slap in the face as it could have been. The relationship was abusive because of how awful Ananna was to Naji. Naji deserved better. I think the reason he came to love Ananna was because he didn’t think anyone else could love him and his life was a big pile of shit. Anyway, I found some consolation in the optimistic romance between Marjani and Saida, so it was not like I was left with completely nothing.

Conclusion

I rate The Pirate’s Wish 2-stars for it was okay. It wasn’t 1-star because I’ve read worse, and the writing was at least succinct. Thank hell the series was only a duology. If you plan to pick the series up, I strongly recommend librarying it.

Review of book 1: The Assassin's Curse

Book Description

After setting out to break the curse that binds them together, the pirate Ananna and the assassin Naji find themselves stranded on an enchanted island in the north with nothing but a sword, their wits, and the secret to breaking the curse: complete three impossible tasks. With the help of their friend Marjani and a rather unusual ally, Ananna and Naji make their way south again, seeking what seems to be beyond their reach.

Unfortunately, Naji has enemies from the shadowy world known as the Mists, and Ananna must still face the repercussions of going up against the Pirate Confederation. Together, Naji and Ananna must break the curse, escape their enemies — and come to terms with their growing romantic attraction.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

REVIEW: Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold

Shanghai Sparrow Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

For a historical fantasy that contain “Formidable Devices, Fay, Etheric Science, Espionage, Opium, Murder and Bartitsu” — exciting stuff, it was restrained. Blech. Fantasy is supposed to be fantastic, not restrained. I found the book lacking in many ways.

+ the characters

I liked Eveline from the start. She was clever and wisely distrustful. She didn’t let the bad guys break her composure. She didn’t need anyone to tell her how much danger she was in. She knew when she was being bullshited and knew how to bullshit back. In short, she had a functional brain, unlike the many YA main characters I have read recently (Cress, The Seers, Cold Fury, The Pirate's Wish, and Altered to name a few).

I had only one gripe with Eveline, and it’s really more of a grip with the plot than with the heroine. I didn’t expect her to succeed at every turn, but at the climax I wished she had the upper hand. I wished it was pure wit that saved the good guys, not by convenient luck and improvisation. I wanted Eveline to be the heroine in her full glory, but instead she got nudged out of the limelight.

I also liked Beth, Eveline’s friend. Usually, the geek sidekick is a guy, but it was Beth instead, and I found it very refreshing the geek sidekick was a girl for a change. Along with Madeleine, I loved how there were women scientists and how they played a big role towards the end. What I did not love were how the scientists were passive, particularly at the rising action. If Eveline was absent, Beth and Madeleine were up the creek without a paddle.

Speaking of helpless female characters, there were too many for my liking. For a book eulogizing women’s empowerment, it seemed to love the damsel in distress trope. Thankfully, the plot lines for Treadwell and Charlotte wrapped up quickly and kept the angst down.

I hated Holmforth’s viewpoint. He was a big sack of self-loathing and prejudices. Being in his head, even though it was only 3rd person, pushed my limit for the foul character. I had to skim his viewpoint to salvage my enjoyment with the book. Thankfully, his viewpoint ebbed towards the middle of the book and didn’t rise back till the rising action. Just like how the heroine was nudged out of the limelight, so too was Holmforth in his role as the main bad. As a result, his comeuppance did not feel as satisfactory as it should have been. It was more like an afterthought really.

As for Liu, I wanted to like him, but the guy was too mysterious. Mysterious Liu is mysterious. I recognized that was the intention, but it really impeded me from getting to know him. I couldn’t get any sense of him other than the fact that he wasn’t an enemy of Eveline’s. At least, not intentionally. Plus, it didn’t help that he was around Eveline’s age. I kept thinking of him as her love interest. You know you read too many YA when you automatically assign any boy whom the heroine immoderately interacts with as the heroine’s love interest. Finally, it bothered me that the one important Asian character in the entire book and he was mysterious and exoticized.

The only characters who were more mysterious than Liu were the Folks, which the book called the faeries. And they weren’t mysterious as they didn’t have any character development. Throwing out a couple ubiquitous details such as how the Folks have magic and how they’re immortal does not constitute character development. Despite what a big deal they were, the Folks were never more than hazy, shadowy background characters.

+ the plot

I hated the long ass flashback at the third of the book. Seriously, it was really long. It fucking took up 16% of the book. Yes, I counted. I liked Eveline but I did not need to learn in minute detail how she lost her bourgeois family and became a hardened street urchin. I wanted Eveline’s backstory but I did not want it in one constipated infodump of a giant sob story. No. Just no.

In regard to the setting, the sense of England was strong, but the sense of China was pitifully weak. Even though the setting alternated between England and China, it was set in England like 80-90% of the time. The few scenes that did take place in China honestly felt like they could have taken place anywhere else. The book would have been better off set entirely in England and in a Chinatown of England. “Far Eastern steampunk” my ass.

Well, at least there was steampunk because there was not much of anything else. The espionage was underwhelming. The etheric science was nebulous. The historical side was thin. It’s like expecting real fruit juice but receiving some carbonated shit made with 10% real juice. This reader was highly disappointed.

Conclusion

I rate Shanghai Sparrow 2-stars for it was okay. The book was a classic case of all that glitters was not gold. The only thing the book got right was the dynamic heroine. On the bright side, this book was still better than the Spiritwalker trilogy by Kate Elliott beginning with the fact that the book isn’t a dragged out trilogy.


Book Description

Shanghai Sparrow is a Far Eastern steampunk tale of espionage, distant empires and thrilling exploits, with a dynamic heroine.

The British Empire is at war, both within and without.

Eveline Duchen was once a country child, living a life of privilege, touched by the magic that still clings to the woods and fields of Victorian England. Now she is a street urchin in a London where brutal poverty and glittering new inventions exist side by side, living as a thief and con-artist under the wing of the formidable Ma Pether.

Caught in an act of deception, Eveline is faced with Mr Holmforth, a gentleman in the service of Her Majesty’s Government, who offers her a stark choice. Transportation, or an education – and utter commitment to Her Majesty’s Service - at Madam Cairngrim’s school for female spies. The school’s regime is harsh. Eveline has already learned harder lessons. She plans to take advantage of everything they can teach her, then go her own way.

But in the fury of the Opium Wars, the British Empire is about to make a devil’s bargain. Eveline’s choices will change the future of her world, and reveal the truth about the death of her sister Charlotte.

Shanghai Sparrow is set in an alternative England and China. It contains Formidable Devices, Fay, Etheric Science, Espionage, Opium, Murder and Bartitsu and may not be suitable for those of a delicate disposition.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

REVIEW: Honor's Knight by Rachel Bach

Honor's Knight (Paradox, #2) Honor's Knight by Rachel Bach
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every bit as good as book 1, and more; book 2 dazzled me. Every time I thought I knew a character or the situation, the book blasted me with new details and showed me how wrong I was and how little I knew. I know the saying “there are two sides to every story.” I knew it was the message the book was sending. Nevertheless, I still got my ass handed to me.

+ the plot

The book started off slow for me because I didn’t like following memory-wiped Devi. I hate to see beloved main characters in a helpless position. The inexplicable emotions, the strange floating creatures only she could see, the “dreams” she was having. Devi began to doubt her sanity. Who wouldn’t? Thankfully, the torment didn’t last long, and that was when the book really began for me.

Once she quickly regained her memory, she gained some answers from Caldswell. Hurray for answers! I LOVE IT when a series doesn’t make me wait for them. Those answers were the phantoms, those strange floating creatures only plasmex users could see. And somehow she could too, because she was not a plasmex user. The phantoms were invulnerable aliens who traveled around outer space, and occasionally a big one would effortlessly destroy a planet for no discernible reason. The human governments kept it a secret because imagine the panic. The fact that only plasmex users, less than a hundred in existence and very short-lived, could kill these phantoms? Panic.

Devi immediately realized it was the virus she contracted on the alien ghost ship back in book 1 that gave her the special sight. The virus also made her The Most Wanted Person In The Universe. It’s no exaggeration to say she could save the world or bring it to its end. It’s a fucking virus. Book 2 is about what Devi going to do with it as the only carrier. Cue moral choices. Lots of them.

The action was nonstop and BREATHTAKING. My pulse rate and mind was never at rest. I was constantly wondering how the fuck was Devi going to escape her predicament and what was she was going to do next. Every path seemed to be a death trap. One wrong move and BOOM, everyone dies. No do-over.

+ the characters

I loved Devi. Loved her. She was fucking tough as nails. The only time I thought she made a stupid was when she went to a Paradoxian noble for help after everything she had learned about the conspiracy with the phantoms. I swear, her Paradoxian loyalty will be the death of her. Thankfully, things quickly worked out. It was amazing to watch Devi make like a contortionist and pull a Houdini. Go, Devi!

I still don’t really care for Rupert, but I admit he’s growing on me. It helped that Devi immediately stopped being a lovestruck fool when her memory was restored and gave the bastard some deserved asskicking in more than one way.

Mabel being a warrior was a surprise because I should have seen it coming. I knew there was more to that overly cheery, super-competent mechanic. Nevertheless, she still remained an enigma like her cat. In book 1, I learned about Nova and Hyrek. In book 2, I learned about Basil, Ren, Caldswell, and Brenton. Now I understand why Basil is so perpetually cranky. Everything about Ren was tragic all around, and I was grateful the action-packed plot saved me from dwelling on the matter, along with all the other sad matters.

With Caldswell and Brenton, I couldn’t keep from thinking one was the bad guy and one was the good guy. It took me a while to learn that no matter how much I learned about these characters, I wasn’t going to ever get the “full story.” That for all my attempts to judge them and play god, I couldn’t. It didn’t feel right. Matters were so gray. Even loony Maat was sympathetic, and I trust her as far I could throw an elephant.

The only characters that didn’t have my sympathy were the war-loving, man-eating, slave-owning xith’cal race. I cannot imagine in any way they would be misunderstood.

Finally, Anthony. He wasn’t in the book, not even as a passing reference. In book 1, Anthony wanted to help Devi, and she cut him off. During her escape, I would have thought she contact him for help. But no, she went to a Paradoxian noble stranger. Ergh. Kind of a plot hole where Anthony is concerned.

+ the moral choices

Some examples: Is biological warfare ever acceptable? At what point is the cost of saving the world too high and inhumane? Could the cost ever include sacrificing your children? Sacrificing the few for the many, where does the line stop?

That last question was the one I thought about the most. I couldn’t help but feel the characters’ thought process, including lawful Caldswell’s, were distinctly American. To be specific, culturally individualistic. Sacrificing the few for the many, no matter how inhumane, is a no-brainer for some collectivistic cultures. I don’t know how to feel about the lack of representation of that ideology in the book and how the closest thing to such a representation are through the aliens. At any rate, I don’t envy the characters for the responsibilities they’re forced to bear.

Conclusion

I rate Honor’s Knight 4-stars for I really liked it. Book 2 was a thriller science fiction, and I was definitely thrilled. The series got EPIC. Please let the series ends well.

Review of book 1: Fortune's Pawn
 

Book Description

The rollicking sequel to Fortune's Pawn an action packed science fiction novel.

Devi Morris has a lot of problems. And not the fun, easy-to-shoot kind either. 

After a mysterious attack left her short several memories and one partner, she's determined to keep her head down, do her job, and get on with her life. But even though Devi's not actually looking for it trouble keeps finding her. She sees things no one else can, the black stain on her hands is growing, and she is entangled with the cook she's supposed to hate.

But when a deadly crisis exposes far more of the truth than she bargained for, Devi discovers there's worse fates than being shot, and sometimes the only people you can trust are the ones who want you dead.

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