Wednesday, June 26, 2013

REVIEW: Three by Jay Posey

Three Three by Jay Posey
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The book was rude. It threw me into the mix with scant explanation. I waited and waited and when answers were finally given I didn’t understand them because the book didn’t explain what they meant. Characters would act shocked upon awareness and I would just go, “So what?”. The writing spent too much time with scene setup and barely any time with world building. I craved exposition.

For example, Weir were roaming zombie-like monsters. A competent warrior can take one down relatively easily, but the true danger lies within their number and their tendency to ambush preys. Bites wouldn’t necessarily turn a person into a Weir, but then again I’m not sure because the book never explained how one became a Weir. Neither did it explain how Wren came to rule the world when there were powerful humans who could take them on, in groups of course, and reclaim the world for humanity.

As far the book was concerned, the world was always apocalyptic, part of the population always had paranormal abilities, and etc. Unless you were paying close attention and noticed certain words, you wouldn’t have known the fictional world was a futuristic Earth.

+ the characters

Characters were a complete cliché. Three was a strong warrior with a sense of honor. Cass was an ex-criminal who aspired for redemption. Wren, Cass’s son, was a boy with peerless but unreliable power. I bristled how the latter two characters were used for emotional manipulation of the reader. When things needed to vomit sad, the book trotted out the desperate mother and her son who was around 5 year old and cried “Mama,” lip quivering and all that shit. Aiy.

For the main villain, Asher was power crazy because, well, someone got to be evil. The funny thing was that he and the other important characters had more character development than the eponymous hero. I still didn’t know who the fuck Three was by the end of the book. Equally frustrating was the absence of explanation of his secrets when they were revealed. What the fuck does “wired” mean? Ugh. I don’t care anymore.

+ the plot

The plot was so simple that it was strongly more suited as a novella than a novel. I lost patience with it halfway through and heavily skimmed to the end. The only time I ever bothered to pay close attention again was in chapter 22 of 31 when Cass revealed her past and secrets, answers that put her and her son into their present predicament.

The ending was cliché and bittersweet, redolent of some tragic warrior myth. As a reader with a zealotry for happy endings, I would have been upset but I honestly couldn’t give a shit. I never connected with any of the characters so I felt little sadness with the good guys’ death and little joy with the bad ones’.

In Conclusion

I rate Three 1-star for I didn’t like it. A post-apocalypse setting, a touch of cyberpunk, a galore of chase and battle scenes: all that glitters was not gold.

Goodreads | Amazon

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

REVIEW: The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm

The Big Reap The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 3 was a game changer much to my enjoyment.

+ the characters

Sam finally made full use of his power as a Collector by choosing to ride living people as his meat suit. In previous books, his modus operandi was to ride the recently deceased because he wanted to avoid embroiling the living, i.e. the innocents, in his business of Hell. Now, he had few qualms in using the living, selectively of course, to accomplish his missions, and he didn’t wallow in useless emotions when bad things happen out of his control as they often do in his job. He became the formidable hunter a Collector was always meant to be, and I was elated.

Essentially, Sam realized some of his idealist principles weren’t working out and that he needed to be practical about things. He recognized that being practical didn’t mean being ruthless and in effect a sociopath. Sam still helped the innocents whenever he could but when they didn’t listen and did stupid things that got them killed he didn’t kick himself over it.

Sam was smart and fierce. Admittedly, he did have a moment or two of stupid, especially in the beginning when he accepted a ride from a stranger, something a kid knows not to do. However, he more than made up for it by kicking one Brethren’s ass after another throughout the book by use of ingenuity. The Brethren were deadly villains but Sam turned the table on them. I loved how it was the Brethren, for all their powers, who were doing the running away and hiding.

One of my favorite scenes was when Sam had the cunning to call for backup and counter-trapped the trappers. Undead Gio and his human transexual blind girlfriend Theresa from book 2 returned! Holy hell! I was amazed that Gio was still alive/undead considering the fact that was he was a rotting corpse. And Theresa, she was still as bold as ever. I loved how the gang, along with another surprise of a character, briefly reunited to do another round of asskicking.

Lilith also had a part in the book, a major one that went beyond her role as Sam’s handler and occasional assistant in asskicking. How things resolved at the end with her was bittersweet, and I have to say God is such an asshole. If there was a character who was the real wicked mastermind, it wasn’t Simon or Grigori or predictably Lilith; it was God.

+ the plot

Similar to previous books, book 3 irregularly shifted in its timeline, cycling from the present to the recent past of how the present came to be and to the far past of where it all started. The far past took reader back to Sam’s first mission as a newly pressed Collector and his first meeting with Lilith. I really liked how for Sam’s first mission he had to take Hitler’s soul. It was one of the many things in which the book used history to embellish its urban fantasy world building.

I generally despise flashbacks and this series has been no different, but for the first time in the series, I didn’t despise them in book 3. The flashbacks had Lilith and Hitler and Nazis! In previous books, the flashbacks interrupted the flow of suspense and bored me. In book 3, they contributed to the suspense and I was rapt.

The series continued its affair with sobering endings. As usual, Sam’s future was left in the air. However, because of how much I enjoyed book 3, the ending didn’t get on my nerves like usual.

In Conclusion

I rate The Big Reap 3-stars for I liked it. Book 2 fell short of my liking, but book 3 caught up and then some more. I found it amusing how while all these things with Sam in the present were happening, the on-going apocalypse, which commenced in book 2, served as the backdrop in book 3.

Goodreads | Amazon

Saturday, June 22, 2013

REVIEW: Reactivated by Caitlin West

Reactivated (Killer Contingency, #1) Reactivated by Caitlin West
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Characters were poorly developed. The plot was infuriatingly incomplete.

+ the characters

Ardan was established as a disciplined assassin, but the carefree way he acted towards Brad vastly undermined his role. He recently completed a mission so to have a stranger like Brad come up and chat him should have put Ardan on alert. Ardan should have been suspicious of Brad and done a background check at the least. Should have this, should have that — Ardan never did. Instead, what I got was a clumsy getting to know each other that quickly devolved into insta-love.

Meanwhile, while one character betrayed his character development, the other had none. I learned many things about Brad, e.g. his likes and dislikes, but none of it revealed to me who Brad was as a person. He was an American businessman of some sort; that’s all I got. He could have been anyone, anybody and it wouldn’t have made a difference in the book.

+ the plot

The romance was contrived and thin. It was thin because of the numerous flashbacks and introspections. The only thing decent about it was the one smut scene. If the romance was contrived and thin, the plot was even more contrived and thinner. The actual plot didn’t commence till after the smut scene and it was at the end. At the end!

Out of nowhere, Ardan got discovered by a random American government agent and emotionally blackmailed, because of Brad, into serving the agent’s interests. WTF. After only knowing Brad for a few days and a one night fuck, Ardan was willing to do anything to protect Brad from harm.

Cue to the epilogue that made the entire book a prelude. A prelude! Book 1 wasn't a complete story, but a prelude.

In Conclusion

I rate Reactivated 2-stars for it was okay. The only thing I liked about the book was the smooth writing because it kept the full force of my anger at bay.

Goodreads | Amazon

Friday, June 21, 2013

REVIEW: Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris

Unbreakable (Unraveling, #2) Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I liked book 1, but book 2, Unbreakable, not so much. The book was split into multiple parts, and I didn’t like part one because it was a slow beginning. The book could have reduced part one to a few pages and included it in part two where the plot commenced.

I liked the plot. It wasn’t stingy with the action, and the conspiracy showed good depth. Same as book 1, the plot didn’t hesitate in killing off important characters and it killed more characters than book 1 did. Yikes. Note to readers picking up the series: don’t get attached to any of the characters.

+ the heroine

What I didn’t like about the book was the heroine and the underdeveloped science fiction elements. Janelle was both a positive and negative of the book. She was a positive because she was smart and courageous. She thought carefully before she made a decision, and when dangerous things needed to be done she got them done. Need to intentionally surrender so she could get inside a prison to rescue a friend? Done. Need to kill the dudes actively shooting at our heroes? Done. Need to bring down a criminal organization whose evil ties extended to the one of the highest echelons of the government and across parallel universes? Done, done, and done.

Even so, Janelle was as much of a strong heroine as I wanted. She was negative because her narration was too preoccupied with Ben, her love interest. Ben this, Ben that. Love of her life! I understood that she severely missed Ben, but I wished she would have showed some attempt to move on with her life. She thought about him more than she thought about her friend who died in book 1 and her other friend who got kidnapped in book 2.

+ the romance

Janelle made the book too dramatic for my liking. When she finally found Ben, he was accompanied by a second Janelle who was from a parallel universe. Oy. It was one of the many hurdles that arose and made their relationship run hot and cold, all of which could be blamed on Janelle. Janelle needed to quit letting her reactions get the better of her and tidy up her feelings. Her narration was so muddled with useless emotions.

The romance was like a jelly blob covering every part of the book, weighing the book down. I was not a fan of the romance since book 1, and I came to dislike it in book 2.

+ the science fiction side

The science fiction elements weren’t as strong and coherent as they were in book 1. There just happened to be a material that made inter-universal teleportation impossible, which somehow extended to the characters who had the inherent ability to teleport unlike others who needed the gadget. Parallel Earths were brought out with no organization, with little diversity, and with great convenience. The world building went heavy handed with the apocalypse theme as if there was no peaceful parallel Earth.

If there wasn’t a token peaceful parallel Earth I would have thought practically all the Earths in the multiverse were apocalyptic. However, that peaceful parallel Earth came with its own issue. It was peaceful because it hasn’t gone through the Industrial Revolution yet. I didn’t like the close association between apocalypse and science where all the apocalyptic Earths resulted from abuse of science. In a certain angle, the book seemed to have a strong anti-science message however unintentional it might have been.

In Conclusion

I rate Unbreakable 2-stars for it was okay. If you like this science fiction series, check out the Blood of Eden series by Julie Kagawa.

Goodreads | Amazon

Thursday, June 20, 2013

REVIEW: Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

Boy Nobody (Boy Nobody, #1) Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was dazzled. Dazzled!

+ the hero

The book was told exclusively in 1st person POV from the hero’s POV, and I loved it because watching Ben’s mind calculate as he gauged people and situations thrilled me. Ben was believable as an assassin without a trace of doubt! He was competent. He was collected. He was peerlessly cool. When unpredicted hurdles arose and things went out of control, he adjusted to the situations and moved towards his goals. Despite the great potential for Stockholm Syndrome and attempts at brainwashing, he never succumbed to blind loyalty like a fool.

The intentional lack of development of the hero’s identity didn’t bother me whereas in other books it would have. I was so engrossed with the book that only after I finished it did I realize that Ben was rarely referred to by his name, which was fake of course, and that his real name slipped by me, only with a re-read did I learn what it was. Talk about being a Boy Nobody; the book took its title to heart.

+ the plot

The writing read like liquid running through a pipe, straightforward and fast. Chapters were short and smartly divided, every scene punctual. The book was one of those books where everything seemed so simple and effortless but you know in reality it’s to the contrary.

The plot retained the complexity and the relevancy of current events like an adult thriller. There was corruption, espionage, inter- and intra-national conflicts. Just because certain groups had the same nationality and nationalism didn’t mean they had the same goals, and your worst enemies could also be your compatriots.

The plot also had romance, which I wasn’t a big fan of to be honest but mostly in principle because of how ludicrous romance in YA can be. The romance in the book was a few shades of cliché because an intriguing girl was the push the hero needed to start reaching for independence. However, I strongly appreciated that the romance tried to do something different, hence the few shades of cliché and not outright cliché. The romance did include a love triangle but it was more for the plot’s sake than for the romance’s. The second love interest never held any serious competition; all the parties involved knew what was going on, who really liked whom. Jealousy never arose as a real issue and meanness never dictated the characters’ actions. Best of all, stupidity never affected their judgement, which I loved so much that it bears repeating: stupidity never affected their judgement! The romance worked in synergy with the plot rather against it, unlike in countless YA.

And the twist! I loved that the twist wasn’t afraid to skewer the romance. The way things resolved was realistic and in accordance with a spy novel: trust no one.

+ the issues

Where I really took issue was with the world building and a secondary character who was a bad stereotype. I understood that things were supposed to be mysterious but I wished for more answers. Putting aside the hero’s lack of identity, very little was revealed about who the hero worked for or why he was kidnapped and pressed into spy service.

Howard was a nerd, an outcast, and a favorite target of bullies. I didn’t like how he came to serve as the convenient hacker for the hero towards the end. I didn’t like how being the hero’s stooge was the only role he had in the book and the only reason why he wasn’t sleeping with the fishes. I found his character development demeaning and a tad offensive.

In Conclusion

I rate Boy Nobody 3-stars for I liked it. The book had romance but this shouldn’t deter readers who prefer non-romantic YA because the book read firmly like a thriller. Readers who like Game by Barry Lyga should check out the book. Readers who didn’t like Impostor by Susanne Winnacker should also check out this book because this was the competent spy the main character should have been.

Goodreads | Amazon

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

REVIEW: Impostor by Susanne Winnacker

Impostor (Variants, #1) Impostor by Susanne Winnacker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A girl who can take on anyone’s form takes the place of a victim to hunt the serial killer who killed her? What an exciting blurb! I’m all in.

Woah was the blurb was somewhat misleading. Half of the book was about the heroine’s boy troubles. Ew.

+ the characters

Tessa spent the first quarter of the book, i.e. the ENTIRE beginning, bemoaning about her unrequited love for her friend, Alec, who had a girlfriend. But wait, it’s okay for Tessa to pine for Alec because his girlfriend, Kate, was a bitch and Alec deserved better. Alec deserved Tessa. They’re good friends, gosh darn it. They belonged together. Ugh! Tessa not only lacked inner strengths but apparently some self-respect.

Alec, on the other hand, lacked respect for girls because he pined for Tessa too and treated Kate like she was not even his girlfriend or even a friend. His poor treatment of Kate was to the extent that I didn’t understand why he and Kate were a couple in the first place. Their entire relationship was a sham and a hugely contrived obstacle between Alec and Tessa.

The book was a quarter in before the plot commenced and Tessa began her mission, but not without my patience half depleted. Things were good from there on for a handful of chapters, till the boy troubles reared their ugly heads again to topple the plot. Alec had successfully completed missions, and with his training and power he could obviously handle danger. But with Tessa on the field for the first time, he let his heart take control and often got distracted from what he was supposed to be doing, which was protecting Tessa in the shadows and investigating. That was not his heart taking control; that was his dick taking control.

Tessa could barely handle her ability, let alone any danger. The book successfully persuaded me why someone with her ability was highly coveted but not Tessa herself because the damn girl was so incompetent it would not have taken a New York minute for someone to discover that she was a fake.

My suspension of disbelief was kicked in the knee by the fact that Tessa had two years of training. Two years! What the fuck was she training for? Instead of being trained as a spy, it strongly seemed more like she was trained for the role of Victim #1 in some B-rated teenage horror movie. Not Victim #4, but Victim#1 because the girl lacked so much common sense that there was very little chance she would not be the first victim. Case in point, she chased after her stalker in the middle of the foggy night without any weapon, and it was far from the first time the dumb-ass unnecessary put herself in danger. The book teemed with examples of Tessa’s TSTL-ness.

The other characters were no better. Though no one was stupid as Tessa, they all felt flat as characters. In addition to Kate, Franny was the stereotypical mean girl. Obviously, she must be slutty and gossipy too. Ryan was the popular abusive jock. Jocks, nice? As if. Phil was the isolated nerd with such poor social skills that he came off as a creep. See how the pursuit of intelligence is detrimental to one’s life? Say no to studying! The cast even included a handsome young teacher whose marriage was failing and who was having an affair with a student. Let’s throw in illicit sex to spice things up! Speaking of which, there was also Devon, Madison’s brother. Madison was the victim whose life Tessa assumed. Devon was so nice and handsome that Tessa felt tingly. OMG, where is the barf bag?

+ the plot

The only good thing the book had going was the mystery plot which I did like but the way things were revealed and ended left me disappointed. The mystery wasn’t much of a mystery because it focused too much on a limited number of characters and didn’t explore things with the other characters who were equally suspicious. The investigation was a joke. Our good guys stumbled onto the bad guys.

In Conclusion

I rate Impostor 2-stars for it was okay. The book was good enough that if you set your expectations low and turn off your brain, you’ll reap a decent amount of enjoyment.

Goodreads | Amazon

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

REVIEW: Grime and Punishment by Z.A. Maxfield

Grime and Punishment Grime and Punishment by Z.A. Maxfield
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Beyond the premise of crime scene cleaners nothing appealed to me, including the smut. I couldn’t connect with the couple. I wished both men did more to work out their personal issues instead of wallowing in guilt, pity, and all that woe-is-me crap.

Both men never really recognized that their friends with benefits did them more harm than good, that they were trying to replace true intimacy with meaningless sex. When the growing relationship between Jack and Ryan took a turn for the physical, I thought they were rushing it and repeating the same mistakes they made with their friends with benefits. (Speaking on a tangent, I did not fail to notice how gracefully the story sidestepped cheating, my biggest pet peeve, by establishing Dave and Kevin as Jack and Ryan’s respective friends with benefits instead of boyfriends as I was initially led to believe quickly after Jack and Ryan kissed in chapter 10. Noticed and was amused.)

I understood Jack’s tragic past with Nick was his private business, but when Jack got involved with Ryan, Nick’s cousin, who looked similar to Nick, he should have told Ryan as early as possible. Awfully predictable that the revelation was made the climax and against Jack’s consent. The plot strained itself to construct the revelation as that big obstacle that the couple must overcome to achieve their HEA.

On the bright side, the issue resolved itself quickly and Dave, a secondary character, was redeemed if only by a few inches. I didn’t like Dave because dude was a repressed detective and had his own issues, and I didn’t care for those issues to mix with the bucketful of others that were the couple’s. I was thankful that at the end Dave gave Jack the long-needed bitch slap of reality (figuratively of course although I would’ve been more thankful it was literally).

The only things I liked about the book was the pushy friends who were justifiably pushy and the cat that was forced upon Jack. Gabe seemed to be the only one in the bunch who was well-adjusted and Kim... well, not sure about the well-adjusted because she “referred to herself as ‘Token Chick’ and talked in the third person” (chapter 7), but I thought it was quirky and I liked it. I wished the two secondary characters had more page time. They would have livened up the wearisome somber mood the book had going.

In Conclusion

I rate Grime and Punishment 2-stars for it was okay. It was a nice read, but it was not to my taste. Had the line of communication been open and the characters not dancing with velleity, the book could have been reduced to half as a novella and better off for it.

Goodreads | Amazon

Monday, June 17, 2013

REVIEW: Incarnation by Emma Cornwall

Incarnation Incarnation by Emma Cornwall
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Nice read but lacked oomph.

+ the goods

The reasons the book was a good read was because of the elegant mixing of elements, the diverse characters, and the strong heroine. The incorporation of the King Arthur legend surprised me. This was the first time I read a Dracula fanfiction where Dracula and Mordred were the same character and one of the good guys. I liked how that the good guys also included Bram Stoker and Queen Victoria. They unexpectedly played a significant role, along with the Prime Minister, towards the end in a simulacrum of an all-stars cast much to my delight.

Lucy impressed me the most (as she rightfully should have being that she was the heroine). She could have easily been typecasted as a Delicate Lady (swooning optional) because she woke up with amnesia and as a vampire against her wishes. I liked that despite her perplexed state of mind her wits remained intact and that she was capable of defending herself.

In regard to the villains, I liked how they encompassed both bad vampires and bad humans. On one extreme, you had vampires who believed in the superiority of their existence and that it was time for humans to know their place. On the other extreme, you had humans who believed vampires had been a necessary evil as a national defense which was no longer necessary and should erode away with the past. The extremes brought a strong sense of realism to the historical Urban Fantasy.

+ the bads

Where the book fell short was the writing, Lucy’s mystique, the Dr. Frankenstein-inspired villain, and the unnecessary loose ends. The writing was verbose and often tested my patience. I didn’t care for the heavy somber mood the book affected throughout the story. I get that the book was based on Dracula which required a certain mood but the book took the mood too far for my liking. The heavy somber mood rubbed raw against the action scenes.

The book regularly mentioned that Lucy could end the vampire race but never specified as to how, much to my annoyance. The characters took the prophecy more seriously than it merited. The things the book did bother to specific were Lucy’s vampiric abilities but never to the depth that I desired. While she had advantages that most vampires didn’t, she was no more indestructible as the rest of the undead rank. The book tried rather too hard and clumsily to portray Lucy as the Chosen One.

One of the characters who opposed Lucy was typecasted as the mad scientist with no other intellect of a character to compensate. Though the book didn’t make pursuit of science a bad thing, it certainly didn’t make it as a good thing either.

The loose ends slightly irritated me. One of the villains escaped when there were many opportunities to eliminate him. I wished Lucy showed some bloodthirst and kicked his ass to hell. I didn’t understand why at the very least no one thought to imprison him once they discovered his evil; the oversight amounted to a plot hole. Another loose end was the romance between Lucy and Marco. An optimistic part of me believed they would eventually work out their issues but things could easily fall on the breakup side, and I prefer certainty. I was displeased with the fact that the ending was intentionally left ajar for a potential sequel when everything could have neatly resolved with a HEA and have the book be a stand-alone.

In Conclusion

I rate Incarnation 2-stars for it was okay. It was an interesting read and devoid of big annoyances if nothing else.

Goodreads | Amazon

Friday, June 14, 2013

REVIEW: Real Vampires Don't Sparkle by Amy Fecteau

Real Vampires Don't Sparkle Real Vampires Don't Sparkle by Amy Fecteau
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The book bored me silly. I thought with a satire title the book would be funny. It wasn’t. Oh, there was one joke at Twilight’s expense but it was more of a nod to the title than a true attempt at humor. Other than that, the book had nothing that could be deemed funny whatsoever. The book was 90% filler, 10% plot, and I’m being lenient.

+ the characters

Matheus was whiny and reckless. He never persisted in seeking answers as he should have. Many questions should have been answered on the spot for the sake of the plot. Those answers would have educated him and more importantly, the reader. They would have explained what the fuck that was going on. It was absurd how Quin repeatedly and voluntarily put himself in danger with Matheus rashly chasing after him as if both had a death wish. I hated how despite his attraction to Quin, Matheus kept insisting that he was not gay and that being gay is all right but he’s not gay. The dude protested too much. Nobody was fooled.

Quin humored Matheus too much. He acted too mellow and patient with Matheus’s crap to be convincing as an antediluvian master vampire. I wished he took more care to discipline Matheus because the dude needed it, if not for Matheus than for me and my patience. However, what I truly took issue was his reticence. Quin was not a silent person but rarely did he ever say things that mattered, things that revealed his motives for all the seemingly random actions that he did. I never learned why he turned Matheus and claimed him as his soul mate.

+ the plot

There were a lot of things that I never learned that the book should have told me. Dialogues were rarely meaningful. In the rare occasions that they were and gave long-desired answers, they didn’t have the impact on the characters that they should have. “Oh, my ex-girlfriend/childhood friend was a werewolf all along? Okey dokey. Let’s return to chatting about meaningless shit.” Virtually everything, from the dialogue to the action, was delivered in a deadpan way.

The plot lacked that pull that keeps a reader reading. The reasons I finished the book at all were because of my unreasonable distaste to leave a book unfinished and my obligation to review the book. Not until the last third of the book did the plot finally seemed like it was going in a direction instead of wandering around like a bored kid. On the rising action part of the plot, readers learn a war was being waged between vampires and vampires-hating humans, something so incredibly important it should have been declared immediately in the beginning.

What was worse was that it was not until the last minute did the relationship between Matheus and Quin made an inch of progress. I knew this book was not a mm-romance, but FFS. I couldn’t believe it took so long for Matheus to even consider accepting his feelings for Quin. I couldn’t believe Quin never made a move and communicated his feelings towards Matheus. It was cliché how it took something seriously dangerous, with both men on the edge of life and true death, for them to open up to one another.

Equally bad was the fact that the ending was left open. The villains weren’t defeated. Nothing was resolved. Nothing.

In Conclusion

I rate Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle 2-stars for it was okay but only because I was bored and not actively annoyed. Though the writing was competent, the storytelling was crap. The book was a pointless time-suck. Do not recommend.

Goodreads | Amazon

Thursday, June 13, 2013

REVIEW: Hunted by Kevin Hearne

Hunted (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #6) Hunted by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 6 of the series was one big chase scene, extravagant and exhilarating! The book immediately picked up from book 5’s cliffhanger (book 5's review) and with a twist of events mercilessly hurled a major death. Literally running for their lives, the heroes couldn’t afford the luxury of grief. They couldn’t even afford a long moment to rest because life-threatening obstacles arose with each passing chapter.

+ the plot, the chase

In addition to Diana and Artemis, goddesses of the hunt, hunting them, the heroes had to contend with the various opportunistic villains that wanted in on the “Kill Atticus” action. Before the heroes knew it, the chase became like a modern gladiator event where Europe was the amphitheatre and gods of various pantheons were the audience. And just to make sure no room was left for the suspense to falter, the heroes still had to figure who in the Celtic pantheon, Atticus’s pantheon, was the traitor doing the evil masterminding, trying to kill Atticus and company. Figuring out the traitor’s identity was not something that could be saved for later because the traitor was helping the villains gain an upper hand. Last but not certainly not the least was the rare appearance made by Loki, a crazy god, as he tried to herald Ragnarok, a.k.a. the end of the world.

In sum, shit hit the fan BIG TIME. The book couldn’t stress enough the fact that the heroes were running and fighting for their lives, where one mistake or a surprise in the form of a trap or an ambush could cost them their lives... and it did because the book mercilessly hurled another major death! Despite the deaths and the countless life-threatening obstacles, the characters rose to the challenge much to my joy.

+ the characters

Atticus was at his cunning best. How he recovered from setbacks thrilled me! His dog, Oberon, was funny half of the time which was more than I could hope because he bugged me in previous books. One of my favorite scenes included Oberon when he tried to sniff a ghost’s dog butt. A ghost dog’s butt! Hahaha! Granuaile, well, I still sneered at the romance between Atticus and her but not as much as before in book 5. I liked that she managed to keep up with Atticus and grew some more as a character.

As for the secondary characters, Morrigan’s confession confirmed my hunch that there was a thing between her and Atticus. I was sad but happy how things ended with her even though I still thought she made a better match for Atticus than Granuaile. Odin surprised me when I learned he was Atticus’ ally, helping Atticus and company survive the chase. I appreciated the bonus novella, Two Ravens and One Crow, that took place between book 4 and 5 and explained how the alliance with Odin arose.

+ the plot, the conspiracy

Once the climax ended and things, for the most part, were resolved with the petty deities, I was happy with how Atticus didn’t take the time to rest but continued with his investigation of the traitor’s identity and the conspiracy. Unfortunately, the revelation turned not to be much of a revelation, and more questions were raised to my impatience and annoyance. I was disappointed in Atticus when he forwent the opportunity to ask a friendly Celtic god for confirmation that the person he ferried to the afterlife was actually the person who Atticus saw dead in the evil lair. This inaction turned what was supposed to be a revelation into a full blown red herring. Whether the traitor was dead or alive, or even real or not, I didn’t know. The only thing that book 6 confirmed for me was that the conspiracy had multiple participants, not just one, and that the agenda went beyond the scope of just killing Atticus and company.

Though the plot made great progress on the unraveling of the conspiracy, the progress was not enough for my satisfaction. On the silver lining side, substantial progress was made on the small plot line to eliminate the evil vampires.

In Conclusion

I rate Hunted 3-stars for I liked it. My blood rushed, my heart pounded, my brain was numbed. Needless to say book 6 was epic and one of the best in the series. Though the ending had no cliffhanger, the impulse to read the sequel was as equally strong as if there was one. At the very end, the book introduced new allies, one of which was a game changer.

Goodreads | Amazon

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

REVIEW: Mist by Susan Krinard

Mist (Mist, #1) Mist by Susan Krinard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The book started off strong but then slid downhill towards the middle and never climbed back up. By the end, things were a mess.

+ the characters

Mist was a strong heroine. She didn’t blindly follow the gods, her superiors, and thought for herself. She moved on with her life, finding new reasons to live in a world that didn’t require her service as a Valkyrie anymore and a belief in magic would institutionalize a person. When confronted with dangers that should have been dead with the past she quickly accepted her new reality, which was actually old since the peace turned out to be nothing but a long interlude and the end of the world has yet to happen. Best of all, she asked questions that should have been asked and took nothing at face value.

Unfortunately, what ruined my liking for the heroine was the many bad decisions she made and how she took issue with things she didn’t have the luxury to take. For someone who moved on and left her warrior ways behind, to be specific didn’t improve herself as a warrior and her magic anymore, she was too bold to the point of foolishness in her confrontation of the bad guys. Only by luck and the strained help of other paranormals and the fact that the villains were equally ill-prepared and partaking hubris did Mist prevail in her battles. I wished her quick acceptance of new things extended to her hidden divine heritage and abilities because in lieu of her rusty warrior skills and the dearth of comrades, her super magic was virtually the only advantage she had.

Dainn, Mist’s love interest, was worse than Mist. I didn’t care for his POV. While the things said in his introspection confirmed my hunches and provided elucidation, they didn’t compensate for melodrama that peppered his thinking. Dude was such an emo. The romance between Dainn and Mist was ham-fisted and unpersuasive.

If Dainn’s POV was bad and unnecessary, Loki’s POV was the worst and definitely unnecessary. Loki was a big reason why I didn’t like the book. He fell short — way short — of my expectation as the main villain, his characterization an amateur attempt of an evil mastermind. The scenes told in his POV were nothing more than evil-doing masturbation (figuratively of course, although...). I understood that he use sex as a weapon, but I hated how he tried to seduce Freya, Mist, and Dainn to point that he became a one-trick pony. Not to mention the fucked up love web. Honestly, was there anyone who he hadn’t try to seduce? Dude wasn’t an evil mastermind, he was an outright douchebag whose dick did most of the thinking.

Last but not least were Ryan and Gabi, magically talented homeless kids who Mist saved and incidentally became their guardian. I didn’t like the kids because they were so pitiful, serving little purpose beyond being cannon fodder.

+ the plot

Some of the scenes were a tad too lengthy. The biggest offenders were the smack talking scenes between Loki and the heroes, which were too long and too awkward to believe. I didn’t need to a single brain cell to realize that those dreadful scenes were nothing more than a clumsy “showing, not telling” approach to avoid info-dumping.

The climax was where the plot hit rock bottom as Dainn confronted Loki by himself and relied on the pure chance that his inner beast of a curse would be powerful enough to defeat Loki. *facepalm* Of course, Mist wouldn’t accept that so she tried to crash the event only and predictably to be taken hostage because girl was worse prepared than Dainn and barely a competent warrior. She too relied on on the pure chance that her super magic would be powerful enough to defeat Loki. *double facepalm*

Just when it seemed things couldn’t be worse, it got worse when the story mentioned, this time with a little more depth, Ragnarok and how the war was a game between Freya and Loki. A game? This was a game the gods were playing? Really? Why the fuck was this important shit of information heavily glossed over the in the near beginning when it was first mentioned? Bad enough there was a plot hole immediately in the beginning, in the prologue, when no reasons were given for why the Valkyries and their fellow Norse never stayed in contact with each other whatsoever when common sense dictated that they should have.

In Conclusion

I rated Mist 2-stars for it was okay. Everything from the characters to the plot to the world building were poorly developed. To readers who plan to pick up the series, I strongly recommend borrowing over buying it. If you want to read something like Mist, an exclusively Norse-mythology based Urban Fantasy, but as a better book, I recommend Norse Code.

Goodreads | Amazon

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

REVIEW: The Ability by M.M. Vaughan

The Ability The Ability by M.M. Vaughan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book was a mildly enjoyable read despite the sadness that rained throughout the first quarter of the book.

+ the characters

As a denizen of La La Land, I didn’t like the sad beginning. Chris was forced to shoulder adult responsibilities because his father was dead and his mother was in perpetual depression because of it. My heart bled as I watched him steal money for food. Even the primary villains, Dulcia and her twin sons, were sympathetic, with Dulcia’s childhood ruined, betrayed by her incompetent allies who failed to rescue her, and her twin sons adopted for the sole purpose of carrying out her vengeance against her ex-allies, though maybe not Mortimer, one of the twins, who delighted in cruelty. Anyway, Dulcia was so sympathetic that I actually wanted her to succeed.

I didn’t sympathize with the other villains but I still took issue. Even though they were only disposable villains I didn’t like how they were portrayed as a caricature because it made the characters silly and the writing juvenile. Mean adults were mean.

The nice adults were no better. While they were not caricatures, their characterization fell flat. The book practically grouped all the adult characters as naughty or nice. It didn’t help that some of them were incompetent and should have done better. For example, Dulcia acted too recklessly at the end carrying out the final stage of her vengeance for someone who prided herself on patience and meticulousness, who wanted success at any cost. Ron and John, as guards, acted more like people fresh out of military training than people who had twelves years in special forces and who served as personal bodyguards to the Queen of England.

As for Sir Bentley, he was nice and competent but even he managed to disappoint me in a scene near the end (chapter 17) and quite severely. I took exception with how clueless he was regarding the severity of Chris’ home problems and his harsher-than-necessary reprimand of Chris’ AWOL. I couldn’t believe the old dude specifically reprimand Chris for using his Ability to avoid paying for his taxi rides when he knew Chris didn’t have the money. First, it was hugely insensitive in regard to Chris’ home problems. Second, Chris only did it because he was desperate to keep his promise to a good person and be honorable, which deserved some admiration. Took integrity too far, what the fuck does that even mean? Third, in comparison to the other issues at hand such as selected people being killed and how Chris could have been killed it was trivial. Fourth, Sir Bentley was a leader of a spy agency, one that recruited and used kids to do secret government things that put them in danger and ordered them to do not particularly ethical things in pursuit of the greater good. He was not in a firm position to judge, especially so harshly. It was awfully hypocritical. I felt so bad for Chris that I wanted to hug him for an hour and so mad at Sir Bentley that I wanted to bitchslap the old dude so hard that he would feel the pain for at least 24 hours. That scene completely turned me off from Sir Bentley for the rest of the book and spoiled any affection the character might have earned from me.

The adolescent characters, on the other hand, were convincing in their roles and my favorite characters. My only gripe with the kids, the students of Myers Holt, barring Chris, was that I wish they were more mature. I wished they showed the seriousness their circumstance greatly deserved and approached their missions with more care. I realized it a Middle Grade book, that of course the kids would act like kids, but I have read many books with mature adolescents that I am too comfortable with a certain level of maturity to make big concessions for the characters’ age.

It’s not a gripe but I also wished there was more focus on the students, which showed how much I loved these kids. I got to know Chris well but only because he was the protagonist. I wanted to know more about Daisy, Philip, Lexi, Rex, and Sebastian. I appreciated that the bunch, including Chris, at least showed some character growth, especially Rex who thankfully was not typecast as the class bully. I really liked that Chris discovered courage and self-esteem and how he strived to keep his promises.

+ the plot

The pace was brisk, partly because the story was told in alternating multiple third person POV with Chris’ POV as the predominant POV. When events with Chris started to wind down, the story switched POV to keep the pace brisk. I really liked the date that prefaced each chapter because it kept order and prevented confusion in the plot.

The ending, I didn’t care for its bittersweet tone, with Chris briefly returning home to his pitiable mother and its sudden melodrama with Ernest ridiculously swearing vengeance against Chris. How did Ernest even manage to carry a dead body and escape an area full of guards and Ability-using kids? Melodramatic and contrived. The book overextended itself to leave a loose end for a sequel.

In Conclusion

I rate The Ability 3-stars for I liked it. The book had issues but it was a good, solid read. I really liked the eponymous magic and its mind map where thoughts and memories and the likes assumed the construction of a city. I thought it was creative and reminded me a bit of a more straightforward, less confusing version of the movie Inception.

Goodreads | Amazon

Monday, June 10, 2013

REVIEW: The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

The Lives of Tao The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

That awkward moment when you enjoyed the book but hated the hero and wished he would drop dead, preferably within the first chapter he was introduced. OMFG, the whiny dipshit was insufferable. I understand characters need to have flaws or else they’re not believable, but at some point there is such a thing as too many flaws to the point that it is UNBELIEVABLE that the character is still ALIVE. Roen was the classic definition of TSTL. TSTL, I say!

“OMG. Gun shoots and kills people. OMG. This alien war is for serious. OMG. I don’t know my reasons for fighting because I’m too slow to realize that I’m fighting to save humanity from eternal enslavement under the bad aliens. I need to take a break and go discover myself while my comrades are risking their lives everyday to keep another day safe for humanity.”


Roen never attained the large amount of character growth I expected from him. At the end, he still needed his alien-in-his-head buddy Tao to play cheerleader for him in the confrontation against the big bad guy. *glares*

Equally ridiculous was how the weak ass went from being incapable of talking to girls to attracting the romantic interest of two gorgeous, competent ladies. The love triangle between Sonya and and Jill made me want to flip a table. I’m all for wish-fulfillment in books but not for a pathetic excuse of a hero who doesn’t deserve it. While I understood their reasons for liking Roen, these ladies could have done sooooo much better, someone who wouldn’t predictably put their life in danger because the dipshit wasn’t thinking. Speaking of Jill, it was very odd that for such an important character she rarely made a physical appearance in the story. Anyway, I was grateful that at least the story was told in multiple POV and not exclusively from Roen’s.

The only reason I was still invested in the book was because of the aliens. The world building went like this: aliens crashed-landed on Earth, stranded and without resources to return home; aliens used humans as hosts because apparently their technology isn’t advanced enough to live without one (but somehow faster than lightspeed travel and immortality is); aliens split into two factions because one prefer to watch over humans like divine guardians and one prefer to rule over them like the inferior creatures they are à la global domination, Prophus vs. Genjix respectively. While the world building explained a lot about the aliens’ origin and motives, it didn’t develop the alien culture. It practically swept the alien culture under the rug as, “well the aliens have been here a long time, so it is reasonable that would they take on human characteristics,” which is plausible but a couple steps short of convincing. As far the world building was concerned, the bad guys were essentially an evil corporation, one that just happened to have evil aliens as the overlords who didn’t really act much like aliens.

The thing that I liked about the bad aliens was how ruthlessly they acted. I wished Tao emulated that ruthlessness, at the very least in regard to make Roen a hero because if there was ever a person who needed tough love Roen was it. The only reason I liked Tao because most of his scenes that were told in his POV were flashbacks to ancient times when he traveled around in East Asia and possessed historical figures. The history lessons with an alien twist were interesting.

In Conclusion

I rate The Lives of Tao 2-stars for it was okay. The low-rating is all Roen’s fault.

Goodreads | Amazon

Saturday, June 8, 2013

REVIEW: Charming by Elliott James

Charming (Pax Arcana, #1) Charming by Elliott James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I almost rated the book a 2-stars had the positives not outweighed the negatives.

+ the world building

Info-dumping thrived like weeds, and my patience neared bottom level after a couple chapters. Yet, because the info-dumping was relevant and interesting and didn’t interfere with the action scenes, it didn’t become as big an issue for me as it could have easily been. Astoundingly, the plot kept to a brisk pace.

I really liked how the book didn’t stick to a particular Western mythology for its world building, that it went beyond to include Eastern elements. The deft mixing of diverse elements in its world building, from a naga to being one of the characters to the villains using Vietnamese guerrilla warfare à la Viet Cong, reminded me of the great world building in the Kate Daniel series, one of my favorite Urban Fantasies.

+ the characters

I also liked how diverse the characters were, considering the fact that they were sketched from cliches. For example, Parth was the token geek character. What made him beyond a cliche was the fact that he was a naga, one of the most dangerous paranormal creatures, and thus powerful in his own right. I always hate it when geek characters are made stereotypically weak. Molly was the token priest character suffering a crisis of faith. What made her beyond a cliche was how she was a woman Christian priest who despite the crisis her faith remained strong and an effective weapon against vampires as she tried to work through her issues by kicking paranormal evils’ ass. I loved how she pretty much defied the stereotype of an intolerant, chauvinistic, kill-all-the-nonhumans-(and humans sympathizing with nonhumans) priest.

Molly’s character compensated for the fact that among the villains were the knights who were these fanatic bigots who hate and wish to kill all paranormals no matter the cost, the “who gives a shit if a great number of innocent humans die in the process, it’s for the greater good, let God sort them out” kind of cost. Though the sides were black and white, which usually tugs on my suspension of disbelief, the development of the bad guys made them believable. In other words, it took no effort for me to believe in the bad guys.

One thing that did tug my suspension of disbelief and tugged hard was the character development of the hero, John Charming. Because of his very tragic, frequently detailed past, the guy was supposed to have major trust issues and major aversion to forming social ties. Yet the way he acted throughout the story was completely to the contrary. He didn’t leave town the moment other paranormals were aware of him, he didn’t leave town the moment Sig and her friends found out about his true identity because practically everyone who found out tried to kill him. He fell for Sig despite the last time that he was in love the romance ended on a tragic note with his fiancé dead. He made friends with some of Sig’s comrades despite the multitude of past betrayals he suffered and how anyone that ever got close to him lived an unexpectedly short life, and the list goes on.

Fortunately, what saved the character for me was his foresight, his strong abilities and success in battles, the fact that he thought things through and thought cleverly, and most importantly, the fact that he confronted his issues head on. I really liked how he openly communicated his thoughts and feelings, especially when they were in regard to Sig, his love interest. I was amused by how some of Sig’s comrades recognized their coupling was inevitable and not-so-subtly matchmade the two, never mind the obstacle that was her ex-boyfriend (It’s Complicated) who wanted her back. The fourth wall was pierced to send a message: lookee here, strong male lead *points to John*, strong female lead *points to Sig*, now get together and kiss *shove the two heads face-to-face*. The self-deprecating romance mixed in well with the save-the-town-from-evil-vampires plot and was far from being angsty as I feared.

The evil vampires were admirably cunning. I loved that vampire queen wanna-be was so cunning, using modern day technology to recruit and avoid detection and putting in the infrastructure for an empire, that the good guys had to think quick and well and do a lot of planning to take down the mad girl. I was delighted that both the villains and heroes were competent, especially with the heroes and their planning because it is rare in Urban Fantasy that heroes plan things out. Irritatingly, way more often than not, Urban Fantasy heroes react to shit as it hits the fan and have to run a good long distance before they catch up with the villains.

In regard to the villains, the thing that anchored the book into “like” territory was its theme of “Monsters versus Humans, oh wait, turns out the Humans are Monsters too,” that it was not what the characters were that mattered but the fact that the evils they did were evils of human provenance. I love it when books dissect the idea of what it means to be human and point out the fact that human and good can be mutually exclusive aspects.

In Conclusion

I rate Charming 3-stars for I liked it. I had issues with the world building and the hero but they had enough good things to win me over.

Goodreads | Amazon

Friday, June 7, 2013

REVIEW: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

Earth Girl (Earth Girl #1) Earth Girl by Janet Edwards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The heroine’s character development was superb, but the world building was subpar.

+ the world building

The world building failed to respect the book’s central theme of history and ultimately its setting as an alternative reality. No explanation was offered for how all nations united as one civilization. Neither was an explanation offered for how people suddenly stopped being religious despite the brief but incredibly jarring sentence about how physicists found proof for creationism simply just to explain the single OMG a secondary character uttered in chapter 5.

As far the world building was concerned, events that led up to the present time, world peace magically happened, and then a third world war leading to the rise and fall of a “Second Roman Empire” which completely ignored the Third Rome controversy and suggested poor research, assuming any, in the writing process. The sad thing is that the book could have simply avoided all the aforementioned issues if it took place in a completely fictional world, albeit inspired by real world settings, instead of an alternate reality.

I also took issue with the idolization of the Military and their ambiguous position in a non-existent political structure. The world building failed to develop the idea of a government. It also failed to convince me that when people left Earth for better planets, ones that didn’t suffer increasing solar storms, they didn’t make backups of humanity’s knowledge and assumed the Earth’s Internet and other various networks were infallible, an assumption that made no sense due to Earth’s increasing solar storms. How convenient it was that during Earth’s exodus, the emigrants left time capsules, a.k.a. stasis boxes, behind because it was trendy, time capsules that would later be excavated for humanity’s lost knowledge.

Finally, I didn’t like the prudish angle the world building worked sometimes. I didn’t care for the equating of polyamory to promiscuity in the form of Jarra’s two Betan classmates. It was bizarre how the slang for ass was “legs” and worse that for a while, due to the lack of proper context clues, I thought a leg fetish was the fashion. Equally bizarre was the “Twoing.” I still don’t know whether Twoing is an engagement or some sort odd official declaration to the government that a couple is dating.

+ the heroine

Thankfully, the prudish angle tapered off when reasons for Jarra’s two Betan classmates’ matriculation were revealed and Jarra, the heroine, realized the errors, among many, of her judgement.

I loved Jarra. She was supposed to be this flawed character, I think, intended for the reader to warm up to but I liked her from the get-go. I thought her anger was justified, and I fully supported her plan to show the norms up. What started out as a plan of vengeance quickly became a case of character growth as Jarra slowly dismantled her prejudice and came to like and trust the people she previously resented. I loved how she finally summoned the necessary courage to face her abandonment issues, the source of her anger.

The only time I didn’t like to read about Jarra was when she suffered a breakdown in the last third of the book and didn’t snap out of it for a couple chapters, a good chunk of the book. It was also the time I wished the story didn’t stick to an exclusive 1st person POV, Jarra’s POV. Jarra’s breakdown was completely understandable but it was hard to read, so much so that I skimmed. It was the only time I skimmed in the book.

I really liked how her love interest stuck by her, that when Jarra pushed back in fear of rejection, he didn’t let her. Though bland in the personality department, Fian was a nice guy through and through, and it was refreshing and delightful to read about a love interest who didn’t act rudely to gain the heroine’s attention. Jarra may have made a poor decision in selecting her first boyfriend, but with Fian as her second boyfriend she certainly learned her from mistakes. Also, no love triangle — hell yes!

The extent of her character growth amazed me, caught me off guard quite frankly, because that amount usually demands a couple of books in a series. Jarra amazed me so much that she (and a very satisfactory ending) more than compensated for all the issues I had against the book for its splotchy world building which at the very least was conveyed elegantly, i.e. no info-dumping.

In Conclusion

I rate Earth Girl 4-stars for I really liked it. The fact that it’s book 1 in a series surprises me because the book tightly wrapped up all the loose ends. I am excited to return to the world, but with trepidation that the sequels might tarnish book 1 (which given my experience is not as uncommon an occurrence as I’d like it to be). Earth Girl set the expectation very high.

I definitely recommend the book for readers looking for a focused YA science fiction with a flawed but strong heroine with a reservation: ignore the fact that the setting is an alternative reality.

Buddy read and discussion with Georgina.

Goodreads | Amazon

Thursday, June 6, 2013

REVIEW: Data Runner by Sam A. Patel

Data Runner Data Runner by Sam A. Patel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hipsters versus evil corporations and their hired thugs. The book read like an action movie but without the plot holes and indigestible contrivances.

+ the characters

The good guys were a bit full of themselves. Parkour was cool. Community was cool. Staying in school and going to college, cool. Hacking and beating the man, guess what? Cool, too. (They never used the word “cool” but the sentiment was apparent.) While I liked that the characters had passion and goals, they went a bit overboard with the enthusiasm. It was a step short of indoctrination. Yes, I get it. Y’all are hipsters. Fortunately, enthusiasm eased up after a few chapters once the plot got going and the characters had no time to extol their interests.

I liked Jack. He was smart, earnest, and decisive, completely worthy of his role as the protagonist. However, I wish Jack was smarter in carrying a gun or some other weapon after he accepted a job that he fully knew was dangerous. Case in point, the news frequently reported that there was a guy was chasing after data runners and chopping off their arms. Hell, I didn’t understand why practically none of the data runners were armed. At least carry some smoke bombs or something. I knew their raison d'être was to run, run, run but they had to have realized that running would not always be an option. What started as an oversight on the protagonist’s part soon became an oversight of the world building. The concept of data runners could have been more developed.

Red Tail was another data runner and Jack’s love interest. I really liked that the romance appeared late at the end and was a minor, almost trivial plot line because it would have distracted the plot and interfered with the characters’ priorities. I also liked how Red Tail never played the role of a damsel in distress for a second, and in fact she played the role of Jack’s rescuer and reluctant mentor. Red Tail was such a kickass heroine that the book could have easily been told in her POV.

Martin was a secondary character and Jack’s father. At first I didn’t like that Jack called his dad by his first name, but I quickly understood why even though the book, which was told in Jack’s 1st person POV, never pointed it out. Martin did not act like a proper father to say the least. What kind of a father gambles away the family’s savings and then silently accepts that his kid has to work a dangerous job to pay off his debts and pretty much shoulder all adult responsibilities? Martin should have known the game was rigged and was a trap given the fact that the gang accepted his admission to the game so easily knowing he was a card counter. The revelations made towards the end explained Martin’s fatherly incompetence, but instead of making his fatherly incompetence understandable they made me think worse of Martin.

The only character that were worse than Martin were the bad guys who were complete stereotypes. They came into two groups: thugs and evil corporate suits.

+ the world building

I didn’t take issue with how black and white the world building was, but I was disappointed by it because the book could have done better, a lot better. For example, practically making all corporations evil, greedy, and bent on world domination, I kid you not the book actually said it, was shallow and gratuitous. Sorting people as good or bad, making it into “either with us or with them” matter, as if each person, especially the “bad guys,” don’t have their own values, simplified the social issues too much to be taken seriously. While I got the points the book made, e.g. fraking is bad, I believe those points would have been sharper if the world building showed some care for the complexity of the issues it raised.

In Conclusion

I rate Data Runner 3-stars for I liked it. As a book that raise social issues, it failed to present complexity, but as a book that entertains, it succeeded. I was also thrilled by the greater than average amount of science fiction elements.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

REVIEW: Peregrine Harker & The Black Death by Luke Hollands

Peregrine Harker & The Black Death Peregrine Harker & The Black Death by Luke Hollands
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The book was a head-banging read. It was told in a way where the protagonist was practically mute and so detached that the dialogue was communicated in incredibly stilted summary and events were literally forced upon him. I think the intention behind the inane narration was an immersive reading experience but in practice it was anything but. I felt as if I was held hostage in a dark room that was the protagonist’s mind where I watched the story through a bunch of filters. Halfway through the book I couldn’t take it anymore. It was torture so I skimmed in a rush to end the torture.

And what a shame because the plot was actually enjoyable and the characters were more or less decent. I liked Louisa, the hero’s love interest, but I didn’t like Peregrine, the hero. Louisa was a kickass heroine, and I felt really bad for her for the constant rescuing and guiding of Peregrine.

Peregrine was the embodiment of curiosity kills the cat. He was too much of a dreamer and though he had practical abilities such as knowing how use a gun and how to box, he never really put them to good use. Not until someone or a near-death situation forced to him remember his own abilities that he then put them to use. Furthermore, Peregrine’s background was ambiguously developed. I couldn’t decide if he was poor or rich, why he bothered being a reporter if he didn’t do any actual work. Peregrine had enough money to own his own place, and it didn’t seem at all like he was hurting for money.

Speaking of Peregrine’s place, it was a big plot hole how the villains never once thought to simply stake out Peregrine’s place and personally dispose of him or easier yet, wait until Peregrine was asleep and then bomb his place, killing him in the process. It was ridiculous how the villains went through extravagant means to dispose of the hero. I understood that the plot was supposed to be over the top and the action high-octane but doing away with some logic was not necessary to achieve its purpose.

In Conclusion

I rate Peregrine Harker & The Black Death 1-star for I didn’t like it. The stilted, long-winded, “OMG, please shut up”-inducing dialogue murdered the book.

Goodreads | Amazon

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

REVIEW: Silver/Steel by Belinda McBride

Silver/Steel (Arcada #4) Silver/Steel by Belinda McBride
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The book was not an insufferable read but it could have easily been so because the romance was crap. The relationship consisted of nothing more than insta-love and smut, which as a rule I don’t mind, but in this case it was ruined by the “I want you, but I can’t because Stupid Reasons” from both men.

+ the characters

Someone should have given Travis a LGBT pamphlet and smacked him over the head with it. His denial of his bisexuality, particularly his attraction to men, was juvenile and silly because there was no good reason to angst about it. No one in his circle gave a fuck. Some of them were LGBT too, and when everyone found out about Travis’ coupling with Dylan no one blinked. What they worried about was whether Dylan was a good guy or a bad guy.

One thing was for certain, Dylan was an incompetent shit. I didn’t understand how someone old and powerful and who defeated 999 bad guys, earning him the reputation of the faerie’s bogeyman, stayed enslaved for years — centuries — under a weaker ass, Ulric. The geas was a giant obstacle, but not an insurmountable one, especially for someone like Dylan who was capable of beating it if only he gained some confidence and, more importantly, engaged his brain. I cannot believe how easily Ulric was defeated at the end because if that was simply all it took, Ulric could have been defeated centuries ago and none of this dangerous nonsense would have happened. The only thing that frustrated me more was Dylan’s martyr complex; it was very cowardly of him to take the easy way out and be a meat shield when was it was completely within his capabilities to kick ass and win.

I cannot believe the amount of mayhem the book’s two villains, Ulric and the demon, caused because they were not that strong. Clever, maybe, but strong, no. Perhaps it was due to the very weak character development that made the villains unimpressive because the villains were very one-dimensional. Ulric was nothing more than a thug boss, but at least there was some background building with his character. The demon had none; it was a demon and that was all the explanation that was given for why it did evil.

+the romance

Back to the couple. I hated the lack of communication between the couple. Sex talk, while titillating, did not count. Travis and Dylan never really had a serious discussion about their relationship and issues such as the fact that Travis had a drug addiction, which magically vanished after the first few chapters (plot hole!), or that Dylan was enslaved to kill people, even though they were bad people, and psychologically tortured under Ulric. Even at the end when they finally discussed it, the discussion was half-assed. Readers learned Dylan had a family, that he had kids back in Homewood. So... didn’t that mean there was a great chance Dylan had a wife?

Me: Book, what say you?
Book: Here’s smut!
Me: Thanks! But you didn’t answer my question.
Book: And the couple lived happily ever after. The End
Me: Hello?

*crickets chirp*


+ the plot

The plot started with an attention-grabbing prologue and then went downhill and never really climbed back up. It tripped into a mud puddle and stayed down there. The pacing was so slow that for the majority of the book it seemed like it went nowhere. With rogue werewolves attacks and a magical town under siege, one would think there would be a great sense of urgency, but no. The plot just stayed in the mud puddle. My patience went through a good workout. The only redeemable (not that really redeemable) part of the plot was the handful of unremarkable, moderate length smut that contained cheesy sex talk and awkward light BDSM.

In Conclusion

I rate Silver/Steel 2-stars for it was okay. Parts were underdeveloped, and parts that weren’t underdeveloped were developed dreadfully.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

REVIEW: Sanity Vacuum by Thea Isis Gregory

The ABACUS Protocol: Sanity Vacuum Sanity Vacuum by Thea Isis Gregory
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thought the book would be more exciting because of the blurb, but it wasn’t. Action scenes were few and irregular, considering they were in regard to the villain trying to kill the heroine. Yet everything worked for me. I enjoyed the book.

+ the plot

The plot moved leisurely, but I never once felt the inclination to skim, and the book largely consisted of quotidian science work and introspection. “Hi, I’m Vivian, a scientist. I’m doing science.” “Hi, I’m quIRK, a sentient AI. I’m contemplating my existence.” Sure, there were the occasional scenes where Bryce did his deranged best to furtively kill Vivian. “Hi, I’m Bryce, Vivian’s boss. I’m trying to kill Vivian. Sssh. Secret.” But largely it was “science” and “to be or not to be,” and it worked. The alternating 3rd person POVs between Vivian, quIRK, and Bryce engrossed me.

+ the characters

I liked Vivian. It was the second time in the month where I read about protagonist who is a person of color, specifically blue. LOL. (First time was And All the Stars, though to be precise she mutated into blue but it still counts IMO.) Vivian was very believable as a scientist, and I liked the fact she was the kind of scientist who had ambitions, won’t be cowed, and kept a level head when danger struck. I liked how half of the time when danger struck she rescued herself and the other characters who were collateral damage, that she wasn’t just going to lie down and accept the role of the Damsel in Distress the plot repeatedly forced upon her.

Even quIRK was part of the collateral damage. In the beginning, he alienated me with his jokes and thoughts because they were kind of cold and threatening in which I didn’t know if he was being serious and I hoped it was just gallows humor and not a setup as an Evil Machine (trope: A.I. Is a Crapshoot). But after a couple chapters, I warmed up to him. quIRK was a tolerated, neglected, lonely being who was just trying to learn about people and morals. I liked that through quIRK the book turned the overused trope of Evil Machine on its head and showed that maybe it’s not the machine that are bad, but the humans themselves.

Bryce served as a good example. I liked his character development, such that the book didn’t dismiss the character as someone who was just born evil and not worthy of readers’ consideration, that however deranged the guy was, his reasons for his deplorable actions were all too human. I really liked the juxtaposition between Bryce and quIRK. On one hand, you have someone, flesh and blood, who believed in his superior existence and held no qualms doing whatever to rise to the top and assert his existence. On the other hand you have someone, of wires and circuits, who had to hide his sentience for fear of being “killed” and tried to understand why people do bad things.

In Conclusion

I rate Sanity Vacuum 3-stars for I liked it. The horror elements may have been subtle, the plot not that exciting, but the book was no less interesting. The book had a lot going against it because of my literary preferences but the characters and the accessible science fiction elements won me over.

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