Tuesday, June 3, 2014

REVIEW: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15) Skin Game by Jim Butcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 15 was enjoyable but it was not one of the best books of the series. I had several issues with the characters.

The Characters

+ Dresden

I'm sick of Dresden's self-reproach. I know it's a personality flaw and it's never leaving because it's book fucking 15 and still no sign of self-esteem growth but I really wish it would. I'm tired of Urban Fantasy protags hating themselves for simply existing.

Secondly, he spent a year in Demonreach and all he learned was parkour. Granted, he did display a few new spells throughout the book, but these ice spells were still the same blunt force type as his fire spells. He should have learned other types of spells, types that would allow him to detect enemies (e.g. heat-seeking sight), summon familiars (e.g. golems or shikigami), make obstacles (e.g. fog or stalagmites), etc. There's more to magic than calling up a buttload of fire and ice to blast at enemies. For fuck sake, learn a healing spell already!

I couldn't believe parkour was all that he learned. Dresden is a piss-poor wizard. I hate how Dresden uses the excuse that he might kill people if he goes all out because of his inner demon. Yeah, right. It's not as if burning enemies to cinders or icing them to shards aren't deadly, which Dresden does with no hesitation and does often.

Dresden had access to Demonreach, an ageless entity of immeasurable knowledge, and he did nothing with it. For someone who believed the Winter Knight job would make him dark and twisted, he didn't research a way out of it. For someone who regularly told the reader Mab is vindictive and merciless, he put more effort into antagonizing the queen faerie than following his common sense.

I still like Dresden but he disappointed me greatly. The only reason he did not anger me as much as he could have was because I was too busy being annoyed with Nicodemus and infuriated with Butters. Plus, there was mpreg, which was hilarious.

+ Nicodemus

I know a villain is a poor excuse for a villain when I could have done better in his place. There were several ways I thought Nicky could have screwed Dresden. For instance, he could have made Dresden, as his oath-bound accomplice, kill Butters under the idea that Dresden needed to put down anyone who threatened the heist. And not just Butters, Nicky could have twisted the oath in a way that would force Dresden to choose between his friends and obeying the oath where Dresden would obviously choose his friends but would then die for his choice.

Nicky regressed severely. Instead of delicious deception, most of his evil acts were all blunt force that is emblematic of a mortal muscle-head. What little deception he did was predictable which totally defeated the purpose of deception.

Finally, sacrificing that one person was the stupidest thing he could have done. He couldn't bring some of his fanatics along and sacrificed one of them? Trust was the only requirement, and the fanatics have immense trust in him. You gotta be if you're going to dedicate your life to a demonic cult and allow your tongue to be severed. It's not the first time his fanatics died for Nicky in a mission.

+ Butters

I can't believe he didn't — at the very least — receive a verbal lashing after that stunt he pulled in the middle of the book, risking everyone's lives. Then, at the end he got rewarded and Murphy is on the out? Noooooooo! WTF is the Christian God is thinking? The dude will barely last a second. The only reason Butters got one over on the bad guy was because of divine intervention so unless the Christian God plans to intervene every time Butters is in a fight, a big fat NO. Worst idea ever.

It was bad enough I was already upset with Butters in the beginning of the book for thinking Dresden was his bitch. HEROES ARE NOT YOUR BITCHES, BUTTERS! They have a life of their own and crap to deal with, especially the perpetually unfortunate Dresden as you very well know. Every time you meet Dresden, you are sewing his insides back inside. And of course, the answer to your question about what he's doing now is paying a debt. DID YOU FUCKING THINK COMING BACK FROM DEATH WAS FREE? No, he doesn't have time to play superhero for the city again!

Good gracious, if Butters wasn't Dresden's go-to doctor, I would have told the dude to fuck off. I half wanted him to die during that stunt. Anyway, I hope poetic justice will be served in future books now that Butters, in his new role as a hero instead of just as a sidekick, will experience the shit Dresden and others go through. Be happy for now with your new metaphorical giant penis, Butters. It's all shitstorm from thereon out.

+ everyone else

Damsels in distress ahoy. It's like no matter how strong the woman is, she still needs Dresden to rescue her. Can the damsels rescue themselves for once? At least Valmont was not as bad as what's-her-name in the last book who was so annoyingly helpless and gloomy to the point where I just wanted her to die as soon as she was introduced.

Ascher wasn't a damsel but I hated how at the end she was treated as one by Dresden. Woman made her life choices just like her partner, Binder, made his choices. I hate how Dresden is pissy towards Binder but not towards Ascher as if both were not similar in many ways. I wish Dresden's bleeding heart quit its sexist tendencies.

Poor Murphy. I love the idea that vanilla humans can be on the same playing field with the mighty supernatural. Damn Butters for taking that idea away from me. Anyway, I hope Murphy goes back to being a cop. I hate how she is unemployed and lacking a future other than being a sidekick for Dresden when he needs her. Yeah, that's a pathetic future. I also don't care for the potential romance between them for all the reasons a character listed in the middle of the book.

It was good to see Michael temporarily in action again. I always thought it was silly how he retired because of his injuries in a world where magic exists and it's possible to come back from death. Seriously, why are healing spells non-existent?

The Worldbuilding

The series wandered in Greek mythology, Hades and his underworld to be specific. It was odd that the reader got to meet Hades, another deity, but still not the Christian God. Instead we meet again one of his lackeys, Archangel Uriel, who made a less than impressive impression. So much for the idea that the enigmatic character knew what was he was doing. Anyway, I wish the series dial down the Christian elements or dial up the other supernatural elements.

Conclusion

I rate Skin Game 3-stars for I like it. I might rate it up a star for re-readability; we'll see. I was disappointed we didn't learn more about the Outsiders and the Black Council. It made only an inch of progress in the story arc. How long is this reckoning going to be delayed? Anyway, the book was enjoyable but it could have easily been better.
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Monday, June 2, 2014

REVIEW: The Plague Forge by Jason M. Hough

The Plague Forge (Dire Earth Cycle, #3) The Plague Forge by Jason M. Hough
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

It sucked. Horribly.

+ the writing

The writing didn't improve an inch. It remained excessively detailed. I swear, if a character went to the restroom to take a dump, the scene would have lasted FIVE full pages. Then, in the next chapter the character would still be shitting and it wouldn't be because of constipation. It didn't matter if there was action, which the book had a lot, the pace moved like molasses. I had less patience for book 3 than for book 2 so I skimmed more. I skimmed a lot. You know it's a bad book when you're skimming the action scenes.

+ the characters

I ceased caring for Skyler. He did improve from book 1. He did less angsting and more doing. Nevertheless, the character growth was nowhere enough for me to give a fuck whether the protag lived or died.

Tania, the second protag, improved a lot from the annoying-as-fuck damsel in distress she was in book 1. However, she regressed a bunch in book 3 by obsessing over Skyler. It was annoying enough to watch unrequited love from Skyler's side towards Tania, it was doubly annoying to watch it from Tania's side towards Skyler. The non-communication suffocated me.

Add in Ana, Skyler's current girlfriend, and a stinky love triangle exploded in my face. I felt bad for Ana because she loved Skyler but Skyler didn't love her as much, not as much as he secretly loved Tania. Honestly, the only reason I believe the two women loved Skyler was because he was the hero of the story and it's standard for heroes to have more than one love interest. In other words, the romance was forced and superficial.

The love triangle grated on my nerves. Tania and Ana seemed to be defined by their love for Skyler. At least with Tania, she was a protag of her own and had a life outside of Skyler. Though Ana was promoted from a minor character in book 2 to a major character in book 3, she existed solely as Skyler's sidekick. Without Skyler, she would have faded completely to the background. Thankfully, relief came in the middle of the big book when shit was so important that they couldn't afford the luxury of even a minute to obsess over Skyler. It was also depressing that it took that long and that much.

Samantha, the one major female character who wasn't a love interest of Skyler's, ceased to be my favorite character. I still liked her, which is hugely more than I feel for Skyler, but she wasn't doing anything that I thought was important shit. All she did was run, hide, and fight. It was pretty entertaining in book 1. But as the series progressed, it became boring. She didn't really serve a big role except to be one of the good guys for Skyler to save.

As for the villains, one of them disappointed me greatly. Blackfield broke character by performing a heroic act. After all that animosity and fighting against our good guys, suddenly he decided to help them towards the end because of, ew, altruism? No. I didn't buy it. I didn't buy the reason given that Blackfield was "varying the pattern," his motto of acting unpredictably to win. There's a thick line between acting unpredictably and acting altruistically, forgetting the fact that you're a despicable villain. What he should have done was backstab our good guys and survive like the cockroach of a person that he was.

As for Grillo, the other villain, he frustrated me, but it was in the sense that he was a great villain and he was kicking our good guys' ass. He didn't disappoint me as it was the good guys who disappointed me because they couldn't match him in war. What few victories the good guys gained were by luck in my opinion.

+ the ending

The ending was the worst offender of the book and overall, the series. It was rushed. It had dei ex machina. To add insult to injury, the epilogue was a letter addressed to the reader, telling the reader everything in one fat infodump. By everything, I mean all the things the book withheld from the reader. The reader learned about the reasons behind the apocalypse on Earth, the apocalypse in a galactic empire, the aliens' mission, and the characters' next adventure. The epilogue revealed the entire series as a prelude to the real story where the characters will fight supposedly evil aliens in a galactic war. A FUCKING PRELUDE. Why the fuck was this series not that story?

My feelings were confirmed in a Goodreads review which said that this trilogy was the first of three trilogies. *facepalm* I doubt that will happen if I have learned anything about series, sales, and publishers.

Conclusion

I rate The Plague Forge 1-star for I didn't like it. My only consolation was that I skimmed and the books were free courtesy of the very nice publisher humoring my requests. This series was essentially an unnecessarily expanded-to-the-extreme version of those prequel short stories you often see in Young Adult series.

If you read book 1 and didn't care for it but have a compulsion like me to know what happen at the "end," read book 3's epilogue. It's the only chapter that matters.

---
Review of book 1: The Darwin Elevator
Review of book 2: The Exodus Towers
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Saturday, April 26, 2014

REVIEW: Crimes Against Magic by Steve McHugh

Crimes Against Magic (Hellequin Chronicles, #1) Crimes Against Magic by Steve McHugh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: major spoilers

+ the protag

Nathan was a Gary Stu. Most of the female characters he met wanted to bed him. All of the female characters wanted to be saved by him. It didn't matter if the ladies had powers of their own or that Nathan was amnesic and dazed, they wanted him on that fucking white horse riding to their rescue (figuratively speaking). I expected a Gary Stu, but I didn't expect Nathan to be a James Bond type. I was annoyed how practically all the ladies were made damsels in distress to elevate him as the hero.

As far as his badassness went, Nathan was too short of it for my liking. I thought there were a few decisions he could have made better. For instance, Nathan should have known that once the bad guys identified him, they would identify his allies because it wasn't as if his social connections were a well-kept secret, especially when you're a famous thief. Running to your allies to recuperate? Are you kidding me? That'll be the first place the bad guys would look. What kind of a thief doesn't have several safe houses and caches? Not a very bright one, that's what.

The third thing I didn't like about Nathan was how he got emotionally attached to people so easily. It severely weakened his character development as an assassin in the past and an amnesic thief in the present. Trust wasn't a luxury he could afford. He acted too carefree for an eternal denizen of the underworld. I was bewildered when in a late chapter of the past Nathan divulged his entire life story to a dude he had only known for a few weeks. One, it was blatant info-dumping. Two, what kind of an assassin tells their life story like a celebrity confession on The Oprah Winfrey Show? Aren't assassins supposed to be, I don't know, SECRETIVE? *facepalm*

+ the plot

The plot alternated between the present and a few timelines in the past. I hate flashbacks but I was okay with them in this book. Some of them anyway. My patience wore thin towards the end because the action was rising to the climax and the flashbacks were interrupting that groovy train.


SPOILER.


The ending was nice, but I did not care for the epilogue. Mordred was one of the two evil bosses and he escaped like a cockroach in the last chapter. In the epilogue, Nathan found him and sniped him. What the fuck?

It was talked a bunch of times about how Mordred and Nathan were always close to killing the other but never could because the other would escape his doom. Think Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. And finally in the epilogue, Nathan sniped him in a New York minute, which he should have done from the start. Sniper rifle was invented for a long time, long before the amnesia incident, and Nathan never once thought to use the goddamn weapon to take out his archenemy till now? Furthermore, what kind of an evil genius is Mordred to not have anti-bullet magic on his person? The characters were idiots!

I like wrapped ends but that epilogue was a deus ex machina. One plot hole and it made book 1 of the series pointless. Oy.

Conclusion

I rate Crimes Against Magic 3-stars for I liked it. Despite a Gary Stu that wasn't much of a Gary Stu and a plot hole of an epilogue, I enjoyed most of the book. I liked Nathan's violent side. It was an odd contrast to his bleeding heart side.
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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.

Goodreads | Amazon
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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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