Saturday, August 27, 2016

REVIEW: Naming the Stars by Susan Koefod

**(2) out of 5 stars

"16-year-old Mary-Louise comes home from swimming lessons one day to find she is absent from family photographs, her bedroom has turned into a linen closet, and all of her possessions have disappeared. More troubling, her family goes on as if she never existed. The only person in town who can actually see her is a boy she calls Fish, a YMCA swimming instructor, but Fish is hiding from a troubled past and the person he sees is entirely different from who she thought she was. The girl he sees is entirely different from the insecure, unattractive girl Mary-Louise thinks of herself. The teens discover the photo of a spirited, beautiful young woman photographed many years before—Pearl—who exactly resembles the girl Fish sees. The truth about Pearl’s identity is the key to discovering why Mary-Louise has disappeared and why Fish left home, but his fears of being discovered are preventing him from helping Mary-Louise, after all, no one can see or hear her."

I just do not get this story. At all. I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi; I especially like all of those far out concepts like time travel, quantum flux, temporal anomalies and the like. But this book just did not make any sense to me at all. There was so much back and forth, mixing and matching, shifting around, of characters and times and places, that it all just made me dizzy. I felt like I was reading at least three different stories that wanted to make a coherent plot all fit together, but that just never quite made it.

I received a free eBook copy of this title from Curiosity Quills in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

REVIEW: The Jennifer Project by Larry Enright

***(3) out of 5 stars!

There were so many, many things about this book that totally irritated me!  First of all, it is set in the year 2096, so (currently) 80 years into our future.  The author created a world where the power structure and living conditions were marginally different than now; but there will probably be more technological advances in the next six months than were displayed in the novel.

Probably the single most irritating part of the narrative, was that the main character, Deever, used hippie speak throughout the entire work.  It was, like, so totally annoying, dude.  How he could even pick up 130-year-old vernacular enough to make it part of his speech pattern is beyond me.

Deever supposedly creates all of these brilliant inventions that can do amazing things, but he has totally inane names for them, like “the Wiggler.”  Also, the book goes into rather exhaustive detail about some of the technical aspects of various science related happenings.  But on the topic of the creation of the main character – Jennifer – it is basically mum.  Of course, you wouldn’t expect a writer to be able to explain how a more advanced species than humans is actually created, but something more of an attempt at it would have been appreciated.

If you could get past some of those negative aspects, the story itself and the main premises of this novel were very intriguing.  There were a lot of twists and turns that I did not at all see coming.  The juxtaposition between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and human free will, what is right and what is wrong, and who gets to decide, were all very intriguing.  The take-away-the-grape philosophy was quite brilliant.

Overall, I’d recommend this book as a good read for all, especially those interested in AI and sci-fi in general, not to mention exploration of how to interface those technologies with our human society.  Just for me personally though, the negative aspects were almost too overwhelming for what would otherwise be a rather brilliant story.

As I nominated this book in Kindle Scout, when it was chosen as a winner, I was provided a free eBook copy, with the request to provide an honest review.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

REVIEW: Ghostbusters: Who Ya Gonna Call? by Erik Burnham

***(3) out of 5 stars

This book is in much the same vein as Ghostbusters International, except that it is set in the groups' regular hometown.

I still do not like the artwork style at all. The characters had strangely pointy facial features that are really annoying. And I couldn’t ever tell Peter and Ray apart.

The cover photo appears to be of a Slimer with a female Ghostbuster from the recent gender bending movie. But there were no such characters in the book, so I'm not sure what that was all about.

There did seem to be more of a storyline to this installment, which was a welcome relief from International. But there were still too many side plots and characters that didn't seem to fit in or be going anywhere.  Okay enough for a light read, but definitely not a lot here.

I received a free e-book galley of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

REVIEW: The Bridge to Nowhere (Magemother, #3) by Austin J. Bailey

****(4) out of 5 stars

As the description suggests, this last book in the Magemother series is full of “danger and death, loyalty and friendship.”

Much more is learned about the major players – especially Brinley, Tabitha, Hugo, Cannon, as well as the mages – in this installment of the work.  There is a shocking betrayal, some unexpected support, and lots of other activity to keep things moving along toward the final confrontation.

The slight religious overtures in this volume appear rather at odds with the rest of the narrative.  They just didn’t really seem to mesh as well as the author probably would have liked.

The writing was very good, drawing me along more and more into the story, to the extent that I never wanted to stop reading this book until I had finished the entire thing.

The ending was quite definitive; good enough to be considered a "happy" ending, but with enough sad parts to make it believable.  Although the author has stated this is his last work set in Aberdeen, there were lots of unexplored opportunities left open for possible future visits, or at least fertile ground for the imaginings of the reader.

I received a free e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

REVIEW: The Paradise Twin (Magemother, #2) by Austin J. Bailey

****(4) out of 5 stars

In a very short period of time, Brinley has gone from being a regular, somewhat invisible, young girl living in a small town in Colorado, to being one of the most powerful beings in the fantastic magical kingdom of Aberdeen. She definitely has her work cut out for her, being tasked not only with finding the missing mages and restoring their power, but doing it before the evil festering in the Wizard’s Ire has a chance to escape.

In this installment of the Magemother series, we learn much about many of the main players in the tale, as we watch them grow and develop into their new roles and responsibilities. Not all seem equal to the task. Considering how young many of them are, this should be no surprise; many are given duties that most adults would find daunting.

The Paradise Twin is definitely a sequel, not quite as good as the first book in the series, I would say; and it is certainly a typical place-holder, mostly setting up play for the battle ahead in the final book. But there are many new characters to meet and locales to explore. It is definitely quite the adventure. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

Monday, August 15, 2016

REVIEW: The Empty Throne (Magemother, #1.5) by Austin J. Bailey

*****(5) out of 5 stars!

This is my very favorite narrative in the Magemother series! This account is primarily about Tabitha, who is probably my most adored character in these stories. Also predominate in the story is Archibald, who is definitely my next most cherished personality in these books. New characters are introduced, previously unknown talents are discovered, and different alliances are formed. Many little secrets and previously unknown bits of information are revealed here as well, some of which intersect quite interestingly with other portions of the overall story. This is a short tale, but certainly one of some importance, and most definitely worth the read!

I received a free e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  

Saturday, August 13, 2016

REVIEW: The Mage & the Magpie (Magemother, #1) by Austin J. Bailey

*****(5) of 5 stars!

This was a delightful book that jars you into it with the sound of a gong and the jolt of a fall, not to mention a fair amount of drooling! And from there it just whisks you away on a wonderful adventure to a different land full of magic and mystery, where even the laws of physics are not quite the same. 

The title of the book, “The Mage and the Magpie,” at first seems a little odd; I wondered why it wasn’t simply called “The Magemother.” But as the story progresses, you learn the importance of the two characters from the title. 

There is quite a large cast of personalities involved in the narrative, but each of them is distinctly unique and endearing. The main handful of players are especially well-developed, but everyone adds their special lit bit to the development of the story. Even some of the personae that one might consider minor or even irrelevant, later prove to have a specific part to play.

Brinley, of course, is the main character, an adopted young woman of unknown origin, who is quite abruptly transported across space and time, to a world desperately in need of her help, although neither she nor anyone else knows that at the time. The mere fact that she was summoned by a calling bell intended for someone else lends a significant amount of intrigue to the tale. 

Searching for the Magemother (who alone can repair some of the damage being done to the world), while also looking for her birth parents (especially her mother), Brinley ventures along with a rather odd assortment of traveling companions, all of whom prove to be quite helpful and necessary. 

This book is classified as a middle grade series, which I would say is just about correct. There are a few dark scenes that are rather uncharacteristically and perhaps unnecessarily gory and gruesome, but the overall tone is hopeful and positive. Even if the general tone is a little bit younger, the tale has something for everyone; and the writer’s style just draws you into the story and carries you along for the ride. 

The Mage & the Magpie is currently FREE as an eBook on Amazon Kindle.

I received a free e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  

Sunday, August 7, 2016

REVIEW: The Unquiet Dead by Chris Dubecki

**(2) out of 5 stars

The storyline of this tale was fairly intriguing, filled with ghosts, cults, specters, and other supernatural beings. One rather intriguing plot device that the author made good use of was the fact that the main character supposedly was new to learning about his necromantic powers. So the reader was taken along for his tutoring sessions, and learned a lot about the world view of the main characters in this fashion.

The narrative itself was rather interesting, although there were a lot of convoluted schemes and intrigues that didn’t always make sense or seem to fully come together. However, there were many more things that bothered me about the book than impressed me.

If you have issues with the F-word then, seriously, do not read this book! Nearly every page had at least one instance of it, many had two or three. After a while, I started to speculate that the author maybe didn’t know any other words, different swear words included. I definitely would not let my kids read it, not even my teens. 

There was an overuse of “yeah?” at the end of sentences. Apparently, it’s the author’s version of “eh?” I guess that’s a real Canadian thing? I always thought it was made up. Every time it was used, it reminded me of the two moose in Brother Bear. And it was nearly as annoying as them.

I also had a problem with how often it was mentioned that the main character was nauseous or sick to his stomach. I was starting to wonder if he was pregnant.

The thing that I disliked the most, however, was the ending. There were already a ton of questions left unanswered from the last action scene. Then the very last words of the tale are a total cliff-hanger, leading into a completely different topic that had only been hinted at earlier in the book. A cheap parting shot, if you ask me. I just hope that there is a planned sequel out there; I hate loose ends. 

Despite all of the things that largely irritated me about the book, I did finish it through to the end. The characters weren’t magnificent, and quite frankly I had a hard time relating to them at first. Nonetheless, they did grow on me after a while, much as Trish developed a likely for Ty. It was quite interesting to find that many of the players were not what they seemed. I expect there will be more revelations in future books as well, as there were several suggestions of things not yet fully explored. 

I received a pdf copy of this book free from Curiosity Quills in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 5, 2016

REVIEW: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Enemies Old, Enemies New by Kevin B. Eastman & Tom Waltz (Authors), and Mateus Santolouco & Dan Duncan (Artists)

***(3) out of 5 stars

This story was just a little too... well... WEIRD for me! Okay, not that the entire concept of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn't sufficiently weird in and of itself. But this version throws in a whole reincarnation aspect that I found very hard to buy into. That whole spiritualist side just didn't seem to jive with the general freaky science experiments vibe of the story. I did enjoy the usual banter between the brothers. My favorite line (poor English aside): "Cripes, who'da thought Nerd Ninja and Captain Butt-Kiss would be even more annoyin' when they're not arguin'?" I wasn't too impressed with the graphics. The turtles all looked exactly like, and without their voices to differentiate them (like in the shows), it was impossible to tell them apart. And many of the other characters were just weirdly drawn. Splinter looked like a mutated dog, not a rat; and Hob's cat face was just plain disturbing. The drawings of the Parkour were very strange as well, and you never do discover how he fits into the story. I hate how the ending of these comics/graphic novels are never really an ending. Even if not exactly on a major cliff-hanger, there is more of the story left untold than resolved. The apparent connection to April in this incarnation is quite intriguing. And Casey's character is very sympathetic and rather funny, especially in the closing line of: "I just wish I never taught her how to punch, 'cause somethin' tells me when she wakes up... she's gonna break my face." Overall, a good, entertaining read, even if a bit weird in the backstory arena, and with graphics that could use some improvement.

I received a pdf version of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.