Wednesday, August 29, 2012

REVIEW: Goldrush by Steven Lochran

Goldrush (Vanguard Prime, #1)Goldrush by Steven Lochran
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review

The book was unexpectedly campy. There were parts that I liked and parts I didn't like.

Parts I Liked

+ good writing

The writing was in present tense so the action felt closer to me as if I sat in the front seat of a movie theater. As a matter of fact, the plot read like a typical action movie which I liked.

I quickly got comfortable with the writing after a few pages. I liked how straightforward the writing was; I tend to glaze over imagery but I didn't in this book. It was easy to imagine what the book wanted me to imagine.

The writing felt clean.

+ strong female characters

Gaia is one of the senior superheroes. I liked that the book didn't diminish her role in the deference to other male senior superheroes who had a more drama-filled backstory, that given a different circumstance she could have been the leader of the superhero team instead of Agent Alpha. I got the impression that she could match Agent Alpha power for power. The thing I liked most about her was her strange sense of humor. I wished she had more scenes in the book.

Machina is the other female superhero. She was the youngest superhero before Sam came along. In a different book, she would be your typical YA heroine: she got a family who is largely absent from her life, she's sort of an outcast but she desire to belong, and she's rebellious at times. However, unlike a typical YA heroine she doesn't let her life issues get to her. Machine was, dare I say it, a well-adjusted teenage girl. How utterly refreshing! I love how assertive she was. Her goal to prove herself sometime gets her in troubles but she always seem to prevail. For these reasons, Machina became my favorite character in the book.

Major Blackthorne is the military liaison to the superhero team. Despite having no power, she was still a force on her own. In the battle scenes at the end, she took care of herself and didn't hesitate to fight the supervillains. And I didn't doubt she could actually win either.

Parts I Didn't Like

+ mopey protagonist

The book was mostly in 1st POV from Sam's side. His origin story was ludicrous. He was running a race when his power spontaneously activated for the first time in his life and he accidentally hurt people, particularly his father, in the process. I pitied him and the people he injured but he really needed to get over himself. I didn't like how the story revealed Sam's origin story as if it was some sort of hidden tragic past because it wasn't.

Because of his past, Sam was too mopey for my liking. I didn't start liking him till 2/3 into the book when Machina's constant pep talks finally put a stop to his pity party. However, the change was so sudden that it was ridiculous because after Machina's last pep talk a few pages later Sam gave a pep talk to someone else.

Machina was more patient and nice to Sam than I could have been because I itched to smack him out of annoyance. I mostly put up with Sam because the book designated him as the chosen one and I have a soft spot for that trope no matter how ridiculous the trope is.

+ cardboard male superheroes

They were cliché and a little bit annoying. You got your Captain America/Superman hybrid in Alpha Agent and the Batman/Spiderman hybrid in The Knight of Wands. I eyerolled at Agent Alpha with his pristine good guy persona and The Knight of Wands with his mysterious stoic loner persona.

I didn't really care for these superheroes.

+ lame bad guys

The bad guys were lame. The split-personality guy was all "save me from myself" because one of his two personalities was a supervillain while the other personality was a superhero. The other bad guy, the one who was the main supervillain for book 1, was all "I am the strongest and therefore everyone should bow down to me because I say so."

All the supervillains in book 1 were simply crazy and maniacal; there was no depth in their characterization.

+ plot-holes

The biggest part of the story I didn't like was why didn't the good guys didn't just kill the bad guys outright from the start. Why defeat them only to imprison them? Moreover, why imprison them at the superhero team's headquarter where they could use the place to nuke the entire world?

I realize the book didn't take itself seriously, that it was campy, but I don't believe that excuses the plot-holes. I would have been mollified with a flimsy explanation of a few sentences.

In Conclusion

I rate Goldrush 3-stars for I like it. In spite of the parts I didn't like, the book was entertaining. There were humorous scenes sprinkled in. The last 1/3 of the book with its heavy action scenes was what firmly pushed the book into 3-stars land.

It should be noted that ebook version has bonus content. It's the profile of all five superheroes — Goldrush (Sam), Machina, Gaia, Agent Alpha, The Knight of Wands — and Major Blackthorne. There was nothing new in their stats that readers didn't know from reading the book. You can see the characters' illustration presented in the cover-art here.

Goodreads | Amazon

Friday, August 24, 2012

REVIEW: The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby

The Corpse-Rat KingThe Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Spoilers

This book bored me. It was off to a good start, exactly as how the blurb described, but then it got kinda confusing and then boring. By 1/3 of the book, I skimmed because the plot was going nowhere. By 1/2 of the book, I skimmed some more and faster with the goal to reach the end as fast possible while still getting the gist of the plot. That's how boring the book was.

When all the protagonist does is run and run futilely far away from his problems (in both the figurative and literal sense of the phrase), what interest in the plot is there to be had?

The Characters

+++ the protagonist

Marius is an admitted coward, which wasn't a big problem for me. A problem but not a big problem. No, the big problem was that he had no redeemable trait. He wasn't clever as he thought. His past wasn't tragic as he thought; if anything he was a spoiled rich kid in that flashback. There wasn't anything that made me like Marius, pity Marius, or really give a shit about Marius.

The character growth he showed late in the book was just that, too late. Too late and too small for me to give a shit. In any other book, Marius would be that side character whose purpose is to be killed off.

+++ the sidekick

Gerd was Marius's slow-witted apprentice. The blurb did directly say Gerd would die and I thought was well prepared to handle it. I wasn't. I got upset at how Gerd died at the beginning. As if that wasn't bad enough, I got more upset when I learned how he got pulled into Marius's crapfest. I felt more for Gerd the sidekick than I ever did for Marius the protagonist.

I got upset at Marius and the book and this dampened any little enjoyment I may have derived from reading the book. I felt emotionally manipulated in a bad way. Gerd may have a dull life, but at least he had a life in every definition of the word.

I did not like how things were resolved at the end with Gerd. Gerd may have forgiven Marius, but I sure didn't. This was the bumbling sidekick trope at its worst and a classic example of an abusive relationship.

The World Building

It was heavily lacking. Heavily. I couldn't tell if magic was something everyone is aware of or only those superstitious and real magicians are aware of. I couldn't tell if dead people walking around was normal or not either.

Places were thrown at me and I couldn't get a grasp on the geography.

The Writing

It dragged. Too much superfluous details that confounded me, too little relevant details that starved me of elucidation. I saw passages here and there that could be tightened. The prose encourages skimming.

The Plot Holes

As I mentioned before, I skimmed but I did get the gist of the plot. Got enough that I spotted plot holes.

+++ the love interest

Middle of the story, Bob realized Keth's unrequited love for him and promised himself that he'll return to resolve the matter.
He had a real mission now, one that sank into his bones with an urgency he had never before experienced. Getting back to the dead was only the first part. After that, he had to get to Keth.
—chapter 17
Yeaaaaah, he never did. In the last third of the book, Keth was completely forgotten about.

+++ alive again

At the end when Marius completed the dead people's demand for a king, we learned they couldn't returned him back to life. Turns out he was never dead to begin with and that he had the magic of disguise (or something like that, the book wasn't clear). Marius deluded into thinking he was dead because the dead people tricked him into thinking he was dead which made no sense at all.

Basically, the book's resolution of Marius's dead-state problem was a deus ex machina.

In Conclusion

The premise of the book was attractive, but its execution was awful. I was detached from the protagonist, detached from the prose, and detached from the plot. I may have skim a lot but I didn't need to read every passage to see that the plot didn't make much sense. I believed if I did read every passage, I would have spotted more plot holes.

I rate TCRK 1-star for I didn't like it. I do not recommend this book for readers who best prefer urban fantasy and occasionally venture into traditional fantasy. Readers who like traditional fantasy, I suggest giving TCRK a try but to borrow from library.

Amazon GoodReads

Thursday, August 16, 2012

REVIEW: Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep

Dark Frost (Mythos Academy, #3) Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

It's official. This series suck. I have read book 1-3 and the prequel "First Frost"; I believe I can make this judgement now.

It would take a major effort to turn this series around. It's doable, but unfortunately I don't see that happening any time soon.

The Writing

The beginning was repetitive. I don't mind rehash; I actually appreciate it a lot given the countless series I juggle. However, this series goes overboard with it and Dark Frost is one of the worst examples. Case in point: the book rehashed about Loki and the Helheim Dagger 3-4 times in the first few chapters. Enough already. I get it.

The bright side was the book was slightly fast-paced, faster than book 1 and 2, and had more actions.

The World Building

The world building is still as shallow as book 1. The series said there were Samurais, Ninjas, and Romans but these characters haven't made a presence in the series yet. The series also said there was a plethora of gods but only 4-5 gods have been mentioned so far and they have only been from the Norse and Greek pantheons. It's disappointing to see that the magical world contain Asian influences but there hasn't been anything or anyone Asian in the series.

We are still not given any detail as to how the gods, their champions, and their followers from various pantheon cooperates. It is still a mystery as how the magical world in this series function and by book 3 it shouldn't be. For a series that supposed to be epic and full of magical diversity, it has been a big letdown.

The Characters

+++ Gwen

In book 2, Gwen finally showed some character growth which thrilled me. So it was a goddammit moment when she took couple major steps back in book 3.

The thing that I liked most about Gwen (and possibly the only good trait she had going on for her) was that she embraced her psychometry magic. No matter how little Gwen thought of her magic, if she would realized her potential and set her mind to it her magic could be the most powerful of them all. Too bad Gwen went and sabotaged that hope of her being a competent heroine when she got her ass handed to her multiple times throughout the book. Use your goddamn magic!

And the worst part was that late in the book when boy trouble arose Gwen was willing to give up her magic just so she can make out with Logan. Really!

No, wait. There were at least two other scenes that showed how more infuriating can Gwen get.

One was when she finally learned where the Helheim Dagger was with a clue that was under her nose all along, instead of gathering the professors and guards to come help her collect the dagger like a smart person would Gwen pulled a TSTL act. She went to the hiding place by herself... at night... in the dark... a place where Reapers have infiltrated. Absolutely no surprise what happened next the minute Gwen had her hands on the dagger.

The second scene, also late in the book, was when she had a mental breakdown after using her magic to save herself (finally!) at the cost of a villain's life. What the fuck? The villain died. It was good thing. Despicable dude was going to torture you — some more — and you're having an attack of conscience?!

Does this girl have any ounce of self-preservation instinct?

+++ Logan

In book 1-2, Logan was described as this cool self-assured guy with a player's reputation. In book 3, he was emo. The dude had a classic case of transference. He doesn't know what he want and to deal with his tragic past so pitiful Gwen becomes the target for his frustration.

Note to Logan! Every student in that school you're going to has a tragic past, including Gwen. You're not the only one whose family were killed by reapers.

I cannot see what Gwen see in Logan. The dude is hot, but so is every other boy in that magical world.

+++ Vivian

Vivian revealed as the Loki's Champion was predictable. It was either her, the girl who is suddenly introduced in book 3 and is soooo nice to everyone, or Logan's bitchy ex who everyone knows hates Gwen since the prequel.

Vivian barely had character development. All her family and friends were killed by Reaper, so how did she became a Reaper? The book didn't explain.

But really, the issue I had with Vivian was actually the issue I had with Gwen. Vivian showed how incompetent Gwen was as the series' protagonist. How could Gwen lose to Vivian? Vivian had telepathy, but Gwen's magic was more powerful. Gwen is capable of doing the same sort of mind-warping thing as Vivian. Had Gwen been magic-trained as much she was weapon-trained, she wouldn't have been easily fooled by.

Speaking of which, why isn't Gwen magically-trained? Isn't the magical school suppose to give magic lessons? What a big plot-hole.

In Conclusion

I rate DF 2-stars for it was okay.

At this point, this series has become one of those series where I'm continuing it because I want to know how it ends and not because I care about Gwen. I kinda wish she did died near the end and the series would pick up from another Mythos Academy student's POV. Maybe Oliver the gay Spartan, Gwen's new friend.

Amazon GoodReads

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NEWS: Light at the End of the Drama Llama's Butthole

Drama Llamas Update
  • The STGRB Shitstorm continues and unfortunately it looks like the evil site is there to remain. Thankfully, the reading community by now knows how full of shit the site is and attention is now refocusing back to what is important: books.
  • The CB Clusterfuck looks like it's over. Author has been banned from GR and his attempt to breed more drama llamas at his blog sputtered and failed.
  • Over in the MM-Romance community, there was the Rise of the Rogue Therapist. And that drama llama fell meteorically quick.
  • The Steampunk Scandal zoomed by.
  • Racism alive in the 21st Century? And in the reading community? Foyt Fuckup proves that.
  • The ChickLitGirls FlimFlam is no more. The website has shut down. via Jane @ DearAuthor
A new month now. Still a few stampede of the drama llamas here and there but things are calming down. Yay.

 Gay News

# Olympics or Gay p0rn (semi-NSFW) (1 August 2012) "It's hard to tell sometimes."

No kidding. *wipes drool*

# The 21 Openly Gay Athletes of the 2012 Olympics (24 July 2012) "Out of more than 12,000 athletes, 21 are openly gay. Get to know them."

Awesome! I only wish there were more.

# Message Against Chick-Fil-A (30 July 2012) "Why? Well, because I believe in equality for all people, that’s why. But also, personally, from the bottom of my heart: because you are my friend, and I don’t willingly support people who harm you for just being you"

Hear. Hear.

Book News 

# GoodReads vs LibraryThing part One (31 July 2012) and part Two (7 August 2012) "The two most popular book cataloguing/social networking sites seem to be Goodreads and LibraryThing. So which one should you use? What are the benefits/drawbacks of each?"

GR, of course. It's free unlike LT where you have to pay to catalog more than 200 books. Rather spend money on books than on a book-cataloguing website.

The Future of Electronic Paper Looks Bleak (6 August 2012) "E Ink screens have improved very little over the past 5 years."

I am reconsidering my thought on buying an eInk reader in the future.

# Get Jonathan Wood’s No Hero and New Sequel Yesterday’s Hero For Free! (1 August 2012)

Freebies! Haven't heard of this urban fantasy series.

GoodReads Gossip

# Review Guidelines & Updated Author Guidelines (6 August 2012) "Please keep in mind that 99.96% of all reviews are never flagged for any reason. Of those that are flagged, each is carefully examined by a member of our team. And remember, we never delete or filter reviews for negativity alone."

Hmmm. I think GR can do more. I prefer they don't hide reviews at all. 

# New button for shelving books (30 July 2012) "The improvements go deeper than appearances, however. The underlying code for this button is structured better than the old one, which will help us improve site performance."

Anything that speaketh "improve site performance" is a magical, magnificent thing.

# Why Are So Many Things Broken? (31 July 2012) "We do have a lot on our to-do list, but unfortunately we can't do them all simultaneously. I know that can be frustrating, but I do promise to post updates as I have them."

I sure hope those updates take place in this lifetime, most preferably by the end of this year.

Picture of the Day
RPG Lady Armor. source