Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: Dove Arising

Dove Arising Dove Arising by Karen Bao
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been seeing this book on the shelves for a while at the library, and only now have I managed to finally pick up a copy and read it. Though I see that its GR average is pretty surprisingly low, that's not much of a surprise to me given how many elements it borrows from other YA books - notably Ender's Game, Divergent, The Lunar Chronicles, and even Legend - just try and tell me this book and Legend don't have similar cover art, especially. So, yes, it's a bit of a Grand Mashup of Everything - but that's part of what makes it so cool and readable. Especially when you realize how much China's infamous Cultural Revolution inspired this book.

Two more in the trilogy? Bring it on.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: Nemesis Games

Nemesis Games Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I guess there's a rule that odd-numbered Expanse novels, Leviathan Wakes notwithstanding, just aren't as good as the even-numbered ones? (Wait, isn't that a law of Star Trek? And didn't they try to revise the official canon of which movie was which in the series to count Nemesis as an odd-numbered bad and then reverse it to count J.J. Abrams' awesome 2009 movie instead? But I digress.)

I picked this book up super-duper quickly after Cibola Burn because I just had to know where the story would go next, but not unlike Abaddon's Gate, I thought Nemesis Games suffered from overlength and had a plot that didn't really go anywhere. It certainly wasn't as memorable as its immediate predecessor, even with more involvement from Avarasala - and even she felt a little underused here, especially after Cibola's epilogue promised her involvement in an intriguing new chapter of the story. But in bits and pieces, this novel worked well enough that I still enjoyed the read, even if it was a hell of a lot slower than I would have liked. And hey, at least I'll happily count this as the latest book I brought with me to the drive-in to wait for the sun to set and the movie (in this case, Wonder Woman) to begin.

At least the end of this book finally started rerailing the overarching plot with another intriguing hook. Though this book in general burned me after Cibola's similar hook, I'm still eager to keep on going and hit Book 6 - at which point I'll be pretty much all caught up just in time for the seventh book that I hear hits shelves later this year (if it hasn't already.)

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: Shatter Me

Shatter Me Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Welcome to X-Men Shatter Me, story of a strange young woman named Rogue Juliette who can kill people just by touching them. And she hates herself for it, but can't do anything about it and wants to die, poor girl.

This novel is a tiresome cliche storm. This novel is awesomely cliche-riffic.

I loved it. Just loved loved loved it. I would read this book 1 2 1500 times. Really. Juliette was oh so relatable, a mirror to so much of me. And Adam was great in this book too, but my favorite was Kenji, that guy who walks with his own laugh track.

(Not so much Warner, that piece of bantha fodder piece of so much early Rhysand.)

Can't wait to reread the remaining two books!

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: The Fall of the House of Cabal

The Fall of the House of Cabal The Fall of the House of Cabal by Jonathan L. Howard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a member of the Cabal Cabal, I confess myself a tad disappointed in this fifth novel in the series. This, I think, largely stems from the novel's relatively unfocused, scattershot plot, in which there were simply too many characters (besides those Cabal brothers) to keep track of, and even as they trotted the globe, it was only too easy to forget, sometimes, what the stakes really were this time around. That said, I didn't find it lacking in the signature Cabal dark humor, and there were quite a few welcome callbacks to previous Cabal stories, including the return of the Mirkarvian aeroship, the Princess Hortense.

Though I hear Jonathan Howard's taking a break from this series, I still can't wait to see what he gives us next.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: Wires and Nerve, Volume 1

Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first, I thought this graphic novel would be an adaptation of the original Lunar Chronicles books - and then when I heard Iko would be the central character, I thought it would be another side, another story. Nope, just another story, a sequel to the original series with Iko as the star. And damn, she is so good in this lead role - Meyer should've given her more spotlight sooner! My only real complaints about this book are the general lack of Scarlet and Wolf, as well as the artwork - I dunno, it doesn't appeal to me that much. At least it's not Dark Knight Returns levels of ugly, though, so there's that. And there's a great story in this graphic novel - a story that ends in a wild cliffhanger, which demands to be resolved ASAP. So I'll be better at putting myself in line for Wires and Nerve, Vol. 2 when it comes out. :)

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aimal Farooq recommended this author, and mentioned the movie based on this book of his. So when I got them both at the library, I decided to read the book first, and I think I made a wise choice. The movie, while not half-bad (and nor should it be, not when Riz Ahmed is the star!), loses a lot of the novel's poetic quality in its effort to expand, to build on the story Hamid gives us in under 200 pages. And while I sometimes found the story a little unfocused, Hamid writes the book so uniquely, so heavy on Gray and Grey Morality and Pakistani culture (especially food - mmm!), that I couldn't help but finish the whole thing in one sitting - and, from there, wonder exactly what had happened. Especially with that ending, the ambiguity of which puts Inception to shame - and, naturally, means it's not adapted that way in the movie.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Review: Cibola Burn

Cibola Burn Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After Abaddon's Gate left me questioning my faith in the team behind James S.A. Corey and The Expanse, I'm happy to say that Cibola Burn restored that faith.

By taking the setting well beyond our solar system and bringing us to the most terra incognita place yet, and delivering some damn good apocalyptic thrills worthy of Ridley Scott's work on that most underrated classic Prometheus, I think the series bounced back up to the quality I came to expect from Leviathan Wakes and Caliban's War both. Though I was a little weirded out by those random "Investigator" interludes and their repetitive nature, and slightly daunted by the sheer length, Cibola Burn proved to be one of the most rewarding entries yet in the world of The Expanse - especially with the return of two of my favorite characters, even if for all too brief periods of time, and holy crap on a cracker, that epilogue.

The second I finished this book, I had to place my order at the library for Book 5 - which apparently is proving quite popular right now, so I had to special order it from another library. But I promise, soon I shall read and review Nemesis Games and hope it keeps on building this series' high hype.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Review: Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I liked Ahdieh's first duology and its unique take on the Arabian Nights, but this book wasn't nearly as enjoyable. Rather than the lush, romantic fantasy she gifted us with before, Ahdieh's story of a young Japanese noblewoman forced to hide out with the group that tried to kill her (calling it a Mulan retelling is highly inaccurate, especially given the Japanese setting as opposed to Chinese, but other reviewers have covered that in greater depth) is dark and full of terrors, but suffers from a muddled, repetitive plot, like Zack Snyder possessed Ahdieh as she wrote this book. Not helping is the fact that, even though chapters alternate between Mariko's and Kenshin's POVs (and I love Mariko, especially), the fact that both are rendered in third person makes it very hard for me to connect with them, or even differentiate between them sometimes. But the "dark and full of terrors" helps boost the story out of the trash heap for me, especially with that carnivorous jubokko tree, as well as the final scene, which is scarily reminiscent of a recent episode of Supergirl - no spoilers, though.

I'll read the sequel to this book - it's ending another duology, right? But I'm going into that one with some reservations, unless Ahdieh manages to tighten the pacing and make her characters more vibrant.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: Girl Out of Water

Girl Out of Water Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If not for this book getting flooded with trolls a few months back, I probably wouldn't have heard of it, nor ordered it from the library as soon as I did. On the surface, it really doesn't seem my style. And yet, reading this book, I found it pleasantly surprising how good it was. Though the story does lose considerable steam in the final act, which builds up to an ending so open I feel like it doesn't wrap anything up at all, I have to say, Laura Silverman can write some damn good characters. They pop off the page, each lending a slightly different flavor to this book's salt-tinged voice - my favorite flavor, though, is that of the twins, Parker and Nash, those adorable little buggers. And for what it's worth, even with the ending (as well as the love triangle that I kinda wish wasn't there - I ship Anise with Lincoln a hell of a lot more than I ship her with Eric) making me feel like this book is wanting, I read the whole thing in one sitting, easily.

And now, I'm wondering why I don't go to the beach more often. Hell, from the sound of it, everyone in Santa Cruz is happy to hook up with tourists over the summer. I should've done that as a teenager, LOL. Be the tourist, that is.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review: The Alloy of Law

The Alloy of Law The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The original Mistborn trilogy gives way to this, the first book in a new series of at least four planned novels. It's set about 300 years after the original trilogy, meaning that it takes the old magic-metal system and updates it with the tech and aesthetics of steampunk and westerns. Perhaps our new heroes aren't quite as memorable as those Sanderson gave us before, and the story takes its time to get going because the early chapters come with some annoying time-jumps in very quick succession, but the always-stellar world-building and beautifully visual writing style make up for it. And bonus - this book isn't nearly as long and sluggish to read as the original trilogy was. Here's hoping for more fun in the remaining books - including the one (or perhaps more?) not yet published.

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review: The Upside of Unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hate to be the next person who goes and says that their rating of a book is something-point-five stars because for some reason, those never sit well with me. But really, my assessment of this book is a 3.5, because I really can't decide whether it merits three or four more. But because I'm a nice guy, I'll round up to four.

I think my expectations for this book were a little lower than for most other readers because I never bought into the Simon Vs. hype machine. I liked that book but didn't love it, even though Simon Spier (or as I still like to call him for some reason, Simon Spider) was nothing short of lovable and relatable. Molly Peskin-Suso, I found her relatable in a bit of a different way. Nobody would call me "fat," but I'm just overweight enough that I'm a little more self-conscious about it than I should be. Molly, naturally, has a lot of that same self-consciousness, especially when her surprisingly fatphobic grandma pays the family a visit. But her real issue in this story isn't so much about her weight as much as it's about her nonexistent love life - now that is what I relate to the most.

YA contemporary tends to really not be my thing, or it's absolutely my thing, or it falls squarely in the middle. This book falls in the middle range between the latter two. It's classic Becky Albertalli, overall very lighthearted but running a surprisingly broad emotional spectrum, and so loaded with diverse characters (who are much more memorable than a lot of Simon Vs.' supporting cast, which was my main issue with that book) that just about everyone's gonna find someone to represent them, whether they're supporting cast or main. (Bonus points for Simon making some damn good cameo appearances, including that one "Gryffinpuff" line on his and Abby's Skype call with Molly.) And as for Molly's love life, well, you'd think you know how it goes, but Albertalli has some serious surprises up her sleeve.

So, now it's time to wait for Albertalli's next book, Leah on the Offbeat. Man, where does she come up with those titles?

(Also, as lighthearted as this book is, I gotta admit, it's super fun to balance it out, like the colors of a classic Oreo, with the Orphan Black premiere playing in front of me as I type this review. Just sayin'.)

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Review: Red Rain

Red Rain Red Rain by R.L. Stine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, after five years, I'm finally reading this book, apparently R.L. Stine's first for adults, and not to be confused with my own someday-to-be-published YA science-fantasy mystery of the same name...and I confess myself disappointed. Well, I'm not surprised, given how shockingly abysmal the GR average for this book is - I don't think I've seen any other book (notwithstanding the outright garbage fires that are legendary here for all the wrong reasons) with such a low rating! And you know what? This book really could've been so much better, and validated all the hype it got from Douglas Preston, Kathy Reichs, Steve Berry, et al. But no, while Stine does some good Stephen King-type material with those angelically demonic twins Daniel and Samuel, he kinda ruins it by slipping in other characters' less interesting lives all over the place, including one surprisingly gross and explicit scene of a guy cheating on his wife with a much younger woman. Unprotected. What is this, American Horror Story? (By which I mean Murder House or Hotel, one of the shitty extra-sexual seasons.)

But hey, at least part of the twist ending of this book called to mind one of my favorite Goosebumps books from my childhood - the most underrated one that made an impact on the 2015 movie, if I remember correctly. (Now that movie is what I prefer to remember Dylan Minnette for. That, and Awake, or Agents of SHIELD - but that's neither here nor there.) So that made up for the blahhhhh parts, though not enough to make me really recommend this book too highly.

One day, maybe my book will take this one's place as the top search result under Red Rain on this site. A guy can dream, no?

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Review: Heat Storm

Heat Storm Heat Storm by Richard Castle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Given that Castle hasn't aired a new episode in over a year, this'll probably be the last we see of any of Richard Castle's novels, whether they feature Nikki Heat or Derrick Storm. But at least they got to combine forces, if only just this once, and at least this story managed to tie up a few of the lingering storylines from both Wild Storm and High Heat with neat little bows, relatively speaking. Oh, and getting Derrick's politically incorrect, borderline-jingoistic POV (and his love of Ford) was surprisingly fun, because overly patriotic he might be, but I'd rather have his brand of over-patriotism than that of any GOP stooge.

Ave atque vale, Heat and Storm.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review: The Dark Prophecy

The Dark Prophecy The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I gotta admit, I was just a tad bit disappointed in Riordan's latest madcap mythological adventure. Sure, it's fun to keep going in the POV of an assbuttish god who's still being brought down all the pegs and is none too happy about it, and I'm overjoyed that Leo's back (even though Calypso comes with him and doesn't do as much as I'd like, but still, Leo!) and hasn't lost a bit of his personality.

But the book, while it does evolve a bit from its predecessor and becomes darker (and deals a lot in Apollo's guilt and troubled romantic past with the main villain), it sometimes feels a little too dark, lacking at times in the signature Riordan humor. (Though I admit, as a classic rock fan, I laughed my ass off when Apollo basically said he sang Tom Petty's part on Stevie Nicks' hit, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," and has never been credited for it, not once.) Sometimes, that darkness gets to the point where I had to wonder, why even is Riordan writing this as a middle grade series again and not making it more YA?

(Though it's a good thing he is, if only to ensure that the target audience sees the normalization of an LGBTQ+ protagonist - bi, in Apollo's case, but you already knew that.)

Naturally, this book ends on quite the cliffhanger, with another old fave making a return and promising to play a massive part in next year's third novel. Bring it on, Uncle Rick.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review: The Battlemage

The Battlemage The Battlemage by Taran Matharu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

According to that (new) cover, it's welcome to Mars, I guess...with Fletcher looking very, very dangerous. And of course, Ignatius in the background, having evolved...sorry, metamorphosed from a cute little Salamander to a bigger, be-winged, and now, more Toothless-like than ever, Drake.

So at last we come to the end of the Summoner series...or is it? Not with this level of high action, and highly relevant social commentary as the previous books' allegory for the rampant prejudices of today's world continues to develop, and deep emotional investment because we the readers need Fletcher and Ignatius and all their comrades-in-arms to survive these trials, gorrammit!

Naturally, some of them don't.

But the ride there is loaded with all that action, right up to the very end. I'm not kidding - Taran Matharu gives this series a Deathly Hallows, Allegiant, Mockingjay-level final battle that takes a lot of lives, and a lot of energy, and propels the reader nonstop.

This one's going in with King's Cage, Nemesis, and The Hate U Give in serious contention for this year's Pinecone Awards for sure. And thank God we're not done with this story world yet - even though the ending to this book, not unlike City of Glass or The End of Oz, leaves room to expect further adventures, Matharu's next book, The Outcast, will be a much-needed prequel centering on a younger Arcturus.

Can't wait to read that one!

And until then, to the original Summoner Trilogy, now's the time to say ave atque vale, and also vas ir...anoshe.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Review: The Traveler

The Traveler The Traveler by David Lynn Golemon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I guess in the last year or so, Golemon's hit a bit of a slump. This might be because he went and wrote two books in that time instead of one, with one being a surprisingly not-so-fun horror story that felt like a knockoff of AHS: Roanoke, and the other being this Event Group book - and thank God for that! But while the book had all the action that comes with Event Group territory, and the history-bending, I felt that the central conceit of Wellsian doors and time travel hundreds of millennia into the past was, by Golemon standards especially, surprisingly thinly constructed and unmemorable. But hey, at least the Event Group was back, and they got to make contact with one of Golemon's most memorable characters yet, a very complicated woman connected to those weird Wellsian doors.

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Review: The Four Legendary Kingdoms

The Four Legendary Kingdoms The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's been a while since Matthew Reilly put out anything this good. Maybe not since the last full-length Jack West, Jr. book - and now, after so many years, he's given us the fourth book, and it's peak classic Reilly in all the ways. Ancient conspiracies, interstellar threats, wall-to-wall action like you simply wouldn't believe, gods and monsters...I mean, seriously, why the hell haven't any of his books become movies yet? Probably because they'd all be the most expensive movies that aren't the Pirates of the Caribbean series, especially the movie from this book, which is the one super-high-concept creation I've been expecting for the longest time as a fan of this author - Matthew Reilly does the Hunger Games. And for some of the highest stakes he's ever written, what better time to finally introduce Jack West, Jr. to Shane "Scarecrow" Schofield? It's an Avengers-grade crossover that, seriously, why isn't this a bloody movie yet? Read this if it kills you. (And be amused when Mother casually mentions having not been so bummed since Zayn left One Direction. Hey, maybe she likes his solo work, though?)

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Review: 16th Seduction

16th Seduction 16th Seduction by James Patterson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Funny that this book has the word "seduction" in the title, and yet there's pretty much none of that to be had in the book itself. What it does have, however, is the Women's Murder Club taking on a terrorist who bombs a San Francisco museum that's the Exploratorium in all but name (and especially considering that last year's Women's Murder Club outing included a plane crash on the ground of Mills High School in Millbrae, it's so weirdly jarring that Patterson and Paetro would use a phony-named version of a real landmark.) While the ongoing subplot of Lindsay and Joe's marital issues distracts from the plot with its general lack of presence, at least the trial of the Sci-Tron bomber proves gripping like this series was in the old days. I only hope that Book 17 is an improvement on this one.

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: The Adjustment

The Adjustment The Adjustment by Suzanne Young
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Suzanne Young only gets better and better with the world of The Program - and by that, I mean that she makes the Program ever more sinister, especially in the books that both precede and succeed the original duology. Even with the Program gone, the world in this latest novel still suffers from having ever had it in the first place - especially the teenagers who are still too afraid to not only express their emotions, but to emote, period. And while there's the promise of a memory-retrieval method called the Adjustment, if you know this series, you know it's too good to be true. But you don't know just how mind-screwy this book really is until you read through it all.

I should warn you - whatever you do, do NOT read the diagram of the books in the series that precedes this book. It reveals the title of the upcoming sixth novel, The Complication, but gives just enough info about it that it kinda spoils this one. Avoid that diagram at all costs and you'll get Suzanne Young's best book yet.

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