Book Review: The Door Keeper by Steen Jones

Book Review: The Door Keeper by Steen Jones
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This image was taken from Goodreads.com for review purposes under fair use doctrine. The banner and author’s image were taken from her blog for the same purposes.

Character:  Eden has some sympathy to her, and she’s proactive. Honestly, my knock on her is she’s a bit too proactive. I found myself wishing she’d thought of a few things more carefully before she found herself in danger. This seemed like an intentional character flaw to me as she habitually acts first and then considers those consequences later. Some of those impulsive decisions didn’t necessarily sit well with me, but her actions lead to more interesting conflicts which have higher stakes. Some of these characters were interesting, but unexplored. Marek, is a character I would’ve liked to have seen explored more. His arc was probably the most interesting, but it wasn’t honestly pursued.

Exposition: If I’m being honest, it’s been too long for me to remember much about the exposition. It was first person narrative, but I don’t honestly recall too much exposition. It could be the amount of time it’s been, but I don’t think so. I’d remember being slowed down by a ton of exposition, and this book didn’t slow me down that much. I have to be honest about the time though. I’d say it was done only when necessary if I was forced to comment on it.

Description:  If the worldbuilding is the best aspect of the book, this is the next closest. Jones makes each setting and location feel visceral. I honestly think her magical realms feel more real sometimes than her Earth realm settings. I think her worldbuilding and description work together brilliantly. This means if wondrous landscapes and brilliant details are priorities for you, this book is probably right up your alley.

Overall: This was an ambitiously optimistic novel with a fascinating world to explore. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for stories jam-packed with conflict. The problems and challenges are quickly overcome without a lot of effort or sacrifice. (Some may argue the sacrifice part, but I’m willing to have it with whoever wants.) That said, some readers appreciate a story that’s happy and hopeful throughout. The entertainment of the story is in the experience of the worlds, not the evolution of it’s characters. Fans of wondrous landscapes and interesting settings will love it.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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Book Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Book Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
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Image taken from Amazon.com for review under Fair Use Doctrine.

Character:  Honestly, the characters are a bit weak for me. Anderson isn’t very sympathetic. Emiko, the Windup, is sympathetic, but she’s not proactive. I’ll admit her lack of productivity is due in large part to her character flaw, which does add tension to the story, but it frustrates a guy who lives for sympathetic, proactive characters.  This book isn’t without stars though. The Tiger of Bangkok is this books best character by far. Note my bias mentioned above. Emiko is fascinating in a lot of ways, but she spends a good deal of the book doing very little.

Exposition: This is better. The author moves things along, letting the reader figure things out or simply move with the plot. There’s not a lot of info dumping, and that counters the slow place created by the description.

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Photo by JT Thomas Photography pulled from the authors website with his posted permission.

Description:  In a book where the world and culture are so integral to the plot, it’s fair to expect a lot of description. I think these were necessary elements. Again, fans of books like Dune will love it, I just prefer stories more based in character than setting. That doesn’t make this a bad book, just not the flavor of ice cream I prefer (and everybody likes some flavor of ice cream!). What I will say is the degree of description, which really slows the book down in my opinion, is what makes the world and the culture in it so spectacular. I don’t think you can have world building like this without a lot of description.

Overall:  Fans of deep, visceral science fiction like Dune will love this story for its fantastic world building and intricate plot lines that position characters against the setting in a fantastic man vs man vs nature triangle. This book sings to the heart of science fiction by asking tough questions about society and evolution as only science fiction can.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Zombies from Space…and Vampires by Angela B. Chrysler

Book Review: Zombies from Space…and Vampires by Angela B. Chrysler
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These images were taken from Amazon.com for review purposes under fair use.

Character:  Aria is a solid character. I’d label this at YA hoping Angela is OK with that. Most stories that feature a young woman (Aria is 19), fall into that category. She’s  a solid character to build around. She’s the one sane person in this madhouse of a story, and that makes her charming. Where everyone else is Level 11 zany, she’s the one normal spot in the book, which ups the conflict and provides an interesting backdrop to the story. As I mentioned above, every character in this book was inspired by a member of the real life Slush Brain. I’m biased here, but the cast is just a lot of fun.

Exposition: There’s a bit more here than usual, but you need to explain how alien zombies and vampires managed to pop up in modern day earth. It’s done with decent pacing, and there’s plenty of action to offset it.

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This image was used in a previous post. It was given with the author’s permission.

Description:  This had most of the description in the right parts: action and mayhem. Though the characters are also very clear in the imagination. I honestly just loved seeing these characters come to life.

Overall:  This has a bit of a cliffhanger, but the story is episodic in nature, so it’s to be expected. Every now and then, a reader needs a story that’s just good times and cool, zany action. This is that book. I enjoyed it, and I’m hoping to see more from the story.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

Book Review: No Marine Left Behind by J.R. Handley

Book Review: No Marine Left Behind by J.R. Handley

51X3LhVUF4L._SY346_Spoiler Free Summary: No Marine Left Behind is a short story featuring Sashala Kraevoi. Author J.R. Handley gives us a deeper glimpse into one of the characters in the series. Sashala starts out leading a normal mission, but when one of her Marines ends up alone and surrounded by aliens and steeped in hopeless odds, Sashala charges to the rescue. Survival is mandatory. Escape is the goal.

Character:  Sashala is a strong character (I mean that literally, she’s physically strong), which is nice. Having served with some amazing Marines (both man and woman), I like seeing a woman take the lead now and then. For a story this short, there wasn’t a lot of room for development, but you still get to see how determined she is.  That determination is her best asset.

Exposition: I’ll admit Andrew get’s a little heavy handed here, but there’s a purpose to this. His wordplay is brilliant, but it can’t survive in dialogue alone. The humor of said word-play is more than fair compensation for the slightly higher-than-average exposition.

610MUtV2gSL._UX250_Dialogue: I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve read this story. I think some of it felt a bit “too” Marine for my taste. What I mean by this is there wasn’t much beyond the orders and stereotypical banter. It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination; it just didn’t add a lot to the character.

Description:  It didn’t bother me so much, especially with a story this short. There wasn’t a lot of description. This story is driven by action and pacing. Handley didn’t bog that down with overly descriptive blocks of information.

Overall:  This was a fun “dinner” read. (No really, I read it during a meal.) It’s action packed and full of cool fight scenes and scifi visual moments. It had an 80s action movie feel to it that I liked.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: A Climbing Stock by Andrew Hiller

Book Review: A Climbing Stock by Andrew Hiller

617gnYp90QLSpoiler Free Summary:  A Climbing Stock is one of two books (unrelated) by Andrew Hiller. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and befriending Andrew as well as reviewing his other novel, A Halo of Mushrooms.  Stop me if you heard this one. John, a small businessman, is forced to sell his Corporation of Ordinary Wares. (Do you see it yet?) Instead of selling it to any one of the corporations offering him actual money for his company, John sells COW for 3,000 shares in a stack called Biomicroscopy Endoscopic Arterial NeuroSurgery. (One of those isn’t even a word, and I’m certain there are no arterial veins related to neurosurgery, but have you figured out the plot yet?)

Imagine John’s surprise when those stocks shoot up?

Character:  John is a beautifully naive character. Blissfully ignorant and yet charmingly heroic. It’s been a minute since I’ve read this book, but I have to admit every character is charming in his or her own witty way. Hiller has a knack for charming, and this book is no exception.

Exposition: I’ll admit Andrew get’s a little heavy handed here, but there’s a purpose to this. His wordplay is brilliant, but it can’t survive in dialogue alone. The humor of said word-play is more than fair compensation for the slightly higher-than-average exposition.

andrew-hiller-radioDialogue: This is where the bulk of his clever word-play happens. Reading this dialogue makes me feel like I’m in the world’s greatest dinner theatre, watching the actors play out a scene, winking because they know I get the joke, and I feel like it’s a secret between just me and them.

Description:  There are a few parts here that got a bit muddy, but I’d say the description in this book was better than that of his other novel. The sounds and feelings in this book are more visceral. Even as the plot grows more pleasantly ridiculous, one still feels like he’s right there with the character, even if he’s swimming in a bowl of a giant’s soup.

Overall:  As I type this, Stock is currently my third favorite book for 2017 (Mageborn being the first, and Flash Point being the second).  It takes true intelligence to take something I’d though worn out and breath new life into it by showing us the story through an original character’s eyes. John feels like a cross between Mr. Bean and The Man Who Knew Too Little. I just couldn’t get enough of his antics. Throw so many clever turns of phrases, and you have yourself a book that anyone who just wants to be happy and entertained should definitely pick up.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: Centyr Dominance by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: Centyr Dominance by Michael G. Manning

510gRhw1dtL._SY346_Centyr Dominance is the second book of the Champions of the Dawning Dragons series, which is the third series in the Mageborn saga. My review for the first book in this series is here. My review for the earliest series (Embers of Illeniel) is here.  My review for the central series (Mageborn) is here.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Moira Illeniel has an unusual history. She’s the ancient (and yet teenage) daughter of an even more ancient wizard from another family. Her biological mother’s ability allows her to tap into a great power, but that power is dangerous, and it can lead to darkness. She’s set out to find her missing father, but as things get worse for her, that power calls her to darkness; it calls her to let go of her innocence.  Between her and answers about her father’s location are a god and new, terrifying enemy.

Character:  Moira is my favorite of this series so far. Her character is so well-balanced. Her conflict is fantastic, and her struggle to maintain her innocence reminds me of her many times removed grandfather. Where Thorbear was a fairly adventurous story. This book is more action packed, and it also has a higher emotion rang.  I found myself invested in her, and if she’s rumored to be anywhere in any future books in the series, I’ll pick them up just to see how shoe’s doing.

Exposition: This is right on par with Manning’s best work. Yes, the dialogue becomes a back-handed way for him fill in the reader. That’s still better than just four or five pages of exposition just to help the reader know what’s going on.

Dialogue: I felt this was pretty solid in comparison to his other work, which is a bit better than average for most. It’s not as snappy as the central saga, but it’s still solid back and forth at times despite the aforementioned exposition, which was used to help fill the reader in on some things.

Description:  I find myself picturing his scenes in my mind. The emotional description is sometimes lacking, but there’s plenty there to be happy about.  My point is, I feel like a I’m there when I read his work.

Overall:  This book required zero “hanging in there” like the last one did. Every page has conflict and tension. Every moment seems happy, but tragic. Fans of the saga as a whole need to pick this book up, because it stands out with one of the best in the timeline.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: Thornbear by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: Thornbear by Michael G. Manning
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This image was pulled from the Amazon buy page for review proposed and is used for that reason in accordance with copyright doctrine.

Thornbear is the first book of the Champions of the Dawning Dragons series, which is the third series in the Mageborn saga. My review for the earliest series (Embers of Illeniel) is here.  My review for the central series (Mageborn) is here.

Spoiler Free Summary:  In Thornier, Gram, named after his grandfather, is a young man raised in the shadow of his legendary father’s name, but he doesn’t have the opportunity to prove himself as his mother refuses to allow him to work to become a knight. Just as he gains a secret mentor, he also meets a young woman who seems intent on winning his heart. He’ll have to choose which path means more to him when his friends are threatened.

Character:  It was nice to see some familiar faces in this story, but most of the book centers around Gram. Gram is just enough of his father to be endearing. His kindness and compassion do a lot to build sympathy. His earnestness (a key trait of his father) is what drew me in. What surprised me was how quickly I grew to appreciate the bear. (Her name escapes me at the moment, but she was probably my favorite character in this particular book.)  I will say this book doesn’t hold up in comparison with others from my perspective. This book is essentially a teen romance story. It’s a well told story, and if you like the themes in that sort of book, then you’ll love this.  I just don’t, though. It’s not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. It just focuses on a plot line (relationship) that I’m not much of a fan of.

Exposition: This was pretty seamless here. The time jump in this book wasn’t as much of a challenge as the one I noticed in his earlier series. There are some scenes that slow the pace, but at least those scenes deal more with Gram’s training than his other challenge.

Dialogue: If the romance between Gram and his lady friend didn’t have this dialogue, I’d probably be less of a fan. That said, the wit and interaction of these characters carried me through a plot line that isn’t normally my cup of tea.

Description:  I enjoy the way Manning can make description a part of the action. Most authors (including me) tend to have “blocks” of description. Here, the visuals (mostly visuals anyway) are a part of what’s happening. This allows the scene and setting to add to the story rather than interrupt it.

Overall:  I hung with this book because of how much I enjoy this universe as a whole. I don’t really think this one holds up against the others, but it’s enjoyable. The ending has a few big payoffs, and there was enough interesting material to hold my attention. Fans of young-love romance will like this far better than I did. CONTENT WARNING: I won’t go so far as to say some of these scenes are explicit, but there is definitely some material in this book that might challenge some readers. As is usual for Manning, this is treated in the interest of realistic situation, and the actions characters take have consequences.  This book does a better job of setting up the saga than anything else, but it was still cool to look at this new generation of characters.

Thanks for reading

Matt